Calgary mom questions video baby monitor privacy after ‘spooky’ incident

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A Calgary mom is questioning the privacy and security of video baby monitors after she said the image of another child appeared on hers. Global’s Tomasia DaSilva reports – Jan 20, 2020

A Calgary mother is questioning the privacy and security of video baby monitors after she says the image of a baby that wasn’t hers appeared on her handheld unit.

Carmen De Luca told Global News she was on her bed with her six-month-old son Declan, a micro-preemie, when the monitor went off.

“He was lying beside me sleeping and I could hear a baby crying,” De Luca said. “And then I saw the monitor light up. Then I looked at it and I was really spooked.”

De Luca said on the monitor’s screen was a different baby — in a different nursery.

She said she had no idea where the image was being transmitted from.

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Calgary mom worries about privacy due to monitor mix-up. Tomasia DaSilva

Adding to the strangeness of the situation, De Luca said when it happened, the monitor’s camera was turned off in Declan’s room and she was using the handheld unit a different room. It didn’t happen when she used the mobile phone app.

De Luca reached out to Motorola, the manufacturer, which passed on her concerns to Binatone — the parent company that owns the license for Motorola Baby.

READ MORE: Many popular baby monitors lack basic security, vulnerable to hackers: Report

Binatone confirmed to Global News it is investigating the situation. President Mert Ulusoy said in a statement that “Motorola and its partners take customer personal data security extremely seriously.”

A lawyer for the company later contacted Global News saying Binatone “does not believe the allegations concerning its product as described by the customer to be true.”

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“The Motorola Baby monitor system the customer apparently has is comprised of a ‘parent unit’ with a screen that is intended to view video captured by a ‘baby unit,'” lawyer Jeffrey Levine said.

Levine said the parent unit in question “has an essentially unique electronic identifier that is shared with the baby unit during a pairing process carried out in the factory.”

He said the baby unit can’t share any captured video with any parent unit other than the one it’s paired with.

It also “does not have the capacity” to share video with any previously-paired device that’s more than 200 metres away, Levine said.

“Accordingly, it is extremely unlikely — and as a practical matter, impossible — that a parent unit displays video from a baby unit… that is not within the user’s home,” Lavine said.

Motorola video baby monitor in question. Tomasia DaSilva

Global News also asked tech expert and University of Calgary professor Tom Keenan to look into the problem. After reviewing the model, he told us these kinds of mix-ups can happen.

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“Any technology can have vulnerabilities,” Kennan added. “The manufacturers do their best, but things slip through.”

“My guess — only a guess because I haven’t been there — is they both somehow paired their devices, maybe at the same time, and [the devices] got confused,” Keenan said. “Because that can happen when technology is pairing up.”

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Binatone is now sending the family a new video baby monitor and asking for the old one back so it can be analyzed.

The De Lucas are grateful but still want some assurances, especially when it comes to privacy.

“I’m most concerned about the privacy,” the new mom said. “If we can see into their nursery, can they see into our nursery?”

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