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What just happened? Ring isn't having the best year. The Amazon-owned company has faced continued privacy-violation complaints, and it's just recalled hundreds of thousands of its second-generation smart video doorbells following reports of them catching fire.
The problem, according to a notice posted by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), is that the doorbell's battery can overheat when the incorrect screws are used for installation. These can puncture the battery, resulting in fire and burn hazards. The issue impacts round 350,000 2nd generation Ring doorbells sold in the United States and roughly 8,700 more sold in Canada.
The CPSC writes that Ring has received 85 incident reports of incorrect doorbell screws installed, 23 of which caused the doorbells to ignite, resulting in minor property damage. There were also 8 reports of minor burns.
#Recall: the battery on @Ring Video Doorbells (2nd Gen) can overheat if punctured during install; Fire and burn risks. Contact Ring for new instructions or go to their app. CONTACT: 800-656-1918, https://t.co/aJhc3BDG8e Full notice: https://t.co/2hH98wTSO6 pic.twitter.com/WhsgpuHlqy— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) November 10, 2020
The affected doorbells were sold from June 2020 to October 2020 at physical retail stores, Amazon.com and Ring.com for around $100. They come in satin nickel" (black and silver) and "venetian bronze" (black and bronze) and feature the model number 5UM5E5 displayed on the back of the product and the outer packaging. You can check if your doorbell is part of the recall by entering the serial number here.
"The safety of our customers is our top priority," a Ring spokesperson told Fox Business in a statement. "We have and continue to work cooperatively with the CPSC on this issue, and have contacted customers who purchased a Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Gen) to ensure they received the updated user manual and follow the device installation instructions. Customers do not need to return their devices."
Ring has come under fire over its privacy policies for a long time. Back in January 2019, reports claimed its employees had access to customers' recorded videos and live feeds—something that led to the firing of four workers. It was also revealed that Ring has partnerships with hundreds of US police forces, allowing them access to Ring doorbell and motion camera footage for use in investigations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), meanwhile, announced that it had identified several embedded third-party trackers in the Ring Android app that were grabbing “a plethora” of personal information and sharing it with firms that include Facebook.
Things got worse this year when an Amazon engineer called for the company to be shut down permanently, and the BBC found that Ring products log every doorbell press, detected motion, and app interaction. While not privacy-related, there have also been reports of hand tools meant to protect against Covid-19 breaking the devices.