On the morning after Halloween, we got an email from Ring public relations.
"Where were you at 6pm last night? If you were trick-or-treating, you were part of the millions of people out ringing doorbells this Halloween!"
It then shared some *fun* facts, like which cities captured the most footage and how many more "moments" were captured in 2019 than last year.
It also shared videos from Ring users, which featured masked and unmasked children and adults engaging in Halloween antics. Some were funny moments of pranks and cuteness, others featured misbehavior like — gasp — pumpkin theft.
The videos are pretty innocent, but it's creepy as hell that Ring decided to use video captured on Halloween as a PR stunt to show that, uh, Ring is always watching.
Whether you used Ring to keep an eye on your home or to enjoy the festivities while away, we want to hear from you! Tell us how Ring helped you celebrate Halloween this year in the comments and share your stories with us at email@example.com.
— Ring (@ring) November 1, 2019
Mashable asked Ring whether the people featured in the videos gave their consent to be used in a publicity stunt. Ring did not immediately respond, and we'll update this story if they do.
Using video for PR purposes got Ring in trouble before. After the company used video captured on Ring devices in an advertisement, a BuzzFeed report criticized the practice. Amazon responded with a defense from its terms and conditions.
The videos featured in those ads were "shared," most likely to the Neighbors app. When you "share" content, you grant Amazon a blanket license to use any and all footage captured on Ring devices for whatever it wants: "The company is able to do this thanks to a broad terms of service agreement that grants it the perpetual right to use footage shared with it for 'any purpose' it chooses," BuzzFeed wrote.
Even if trick-or-treating videos come from Ring owners, the use of the footage for a Halloween story is just plain obtuse. It highlights a major problem with big tech: these companies turn our human interactions into data, and use that data (and content) for whatever they please.
Did literally anyone ask for data about trick or treating? Did kids and parents pan-handling for candy or making mischief in their neighborhoods do it as a publicity stunt for a corporation? Absolutely not.
This might seem like a cringey PR blunder, but it speaks to the larger issue that letting Ring into your home exposes all of your neighbors to Amazon's watchful eye — turning innocent moments into the property of a large tech company.