Ring Doorbells: Invasion of Privacy or Worthwhile?

If you do not know, the Amazon Ring Doorbell is one of the new, popular ways that people are expanding security measures on their household. According to the Ring Doorbell official website, they state in their product description that “All Ring Video Doorbells send notifications to your phone, tablet and PC when anyone presses your doorbell or triggers the built-in motion sensors. When you answer the notification, you can see, hear and speak to visitors from anywhere”. As well, the Ring Doorbell has a security camera installed that incorporates a live stream that is recorded and saved to one’s phone and/or tablet. Max Read on the Intelligencer describes the doorbell as so, “as a camera, the Peephole Cam, like other Rings, is boringly straightforward. There’s a doorbell button on it that, when pressed, sends an alert to your phone, and it has a small speaker which can function as an intercom. You’ll also get an alert whenever the camera senses activity, allowing you to see what’s moving outside the door; by default, the camera records 30 seconds of video whenever its motion sensors are tripped. It’s also very easy to install. You unscrew your apartment-door peephole, screw in the Ring hardware, snap in the rechargeable batteries, and download the app.” The purpose of this device is ultimately to reduce petty crime, especially in neighborhood areas. The doorbell would capture any being that was at your door step, and there would be physical, visual evidence to provide to authorities. Although, isn’t there a point where this crosses the line between security to invasion of privacy? There have been several instances where the owner of the doorbell does not set it up so only their property can be seen, but rather, the street and their neighbors houses can be seen too. Lets say you live on a particularly narrow street where the houses are close together and your neighbor has placed their doorbell in the position I stated before and you keep your blinds open on your windows, the ring doorbell will have recorded everything you are doing in that area of your house. And furthermore, your neighbor now has the recorded files and can do whatever they want with them, and so do the manufacturers of the ring doorbell. Although there is more to this. These recordings then can be translated to another application called Neighbors where everyone in the neighborhood who has the app can share something they saw in their video for everyone else to see. You do NOT need a ring doorbell to see your neighborhood’s feed – or even better yet, what ever address’ feed you want to look at. Now lets go back to the scenario I presented earlier – your neighbor posted a video on the neighborhood feed where you can clearly see yourself in your own residence in the background. Someone who lives hours away decided to look into your neighborhoods feeds, and now that person know where you live. In conclusion, is the ring door bell truly a good way to reduce crimes in residential areas, or does it is violate privacy more than serve the intended purpose?

Texting your therapist? Mental Health and Digital Therapy

Over the past few weeks, I had noticed ads appearing on my Pinterest feed with the headline “Text your therapist, not an ex.” This line caught my attention, for a few reasons. Even though I am currently in a happy long-term relationship and am not struggling with mental health issues, I have close friends and family members that are. The aspect of “texting your therapist” was completely foreign to me so I decided to dig a little deeper and found that there are many online and sometimes automated services claiming to offer secure, private connections to talk to a therapist. This raises many concerns about the role that technology plays in the legitimacy, automation, and privacy of treating mental health in a digital age.

Two examples of these types of sites are Talkspace and 7 Cups of Tea, both of which offer online access to a variety of “trained online therapists” and listening communities. These sites offer different benefits than traditional in-person session. By talking online users can forgo limitations such as having to figure out transportation to an office location, fitting a session into a busy schedule, allowing for anonymity due to perceived stigma of mental health treatment, and in some cases affordability based on how much the service is used. These types of services could help reach individuals that may not have access to mental health services due to their income, location, or family situation. It could also serve to alleviate the issue of a lack of trained professionals for the growing number of people that need help, especially since some individuals would be more comfortable communicating about difficult topics through texting rather than a face-to-face conversation.

In a recent article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Stanford scholars have raised some concerns regarding the reliance on technology to solve very real and sensitive situations. For instance, if a user has a negative experience with a digital entity, they may be even less inclined to seek help for mental health issues in real life. These programs may be good for initially triaging the severity of a concern but there are nuances of in-person conversation that cannot be captured through a screen. Additionally, using a technologically-based therapist may lead to increased feelings of disconnection from the real world or an unhealthy reliance on texting their professional with unlimited accessibility. Finally, privacy can be a concern especially when it comes to HIPPA laws, which is why many hospitals and mental health facilities are wary about implementing these types of systems. Overall these sites seem to be operating for the purpose of improving mental health but certainly need to be held to a high standard in order to bring the right benefits to people who need it most.

Stanford scholars discuss mental health and technology



Image Credit: http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/05/smallbusiness/text-therapy/index.html