Reports Suggest Ring Allowed Employees Unfettered Access to Customer Camera Feeds

Over the course of the last month, some troubling information has surfaced about Ring, the Amazon-owned company that has millions of cameras inside and outside homes across the globe.

The Information in December suggested Ring employees in both the U.S. and the UK had unfettered, unnecessary access to customer camera feeds, and today, The Intercept has shared additional details.

Starting in 2016, Ring allowed its Ukraine-based research team to access "every video created by every Ring camera around the world." Video content was unencrypted and "easily browsed and viewed," plus videos were linked to specific customers.

Ring employees highlighted objects in video feeds to improve object and facial recognition>

Ring's Ukraine team was provided with access to further development on facial and object recognition software, with executives and engineers in the U.S. also able to access the same data even if they didn't specifically need it for their jobs.

Employees with access to customer feeds could view an individual's camera with just an email address.
Although the source said they never personally witnessed any egregious abuses, they told The Intercept "I can say for an absolute fact if I knew a reporter or competitor's email address, I could view all their cameras."
Ring employees weren't just watching outdoor video, either, with a source who spoke to The Intercept suggesting indoor video was viewed as well for the same object recognition training. Ring employees were instructed to draw boxes around objects with labeling, allowing the system to learn to recognize various things.

Employees allegedly showed each other the videos they were annotating and discussed some of the incidents they witnessed, such as people kissing, stealing, and guns being fired.

According to The Intercept, Ring is still using similar tactics for improving video tagging and object recognition. Ring Labs, the team Ring has in the Ukraine, is continuing to employ people who watch and tag details in Ring video content.

Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri declined to answer The Intercept's questions about past and current data policies, but he confirmed that Ring views and annotates "certain Ring videos" that are either public or obtained with "explicit written consent."
We take the privacy and security of our customers' personal information extremely seriously. In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring videos. These videos are sourced exclusively from publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app (in accordance with our terms of service), and from a small fraction of Ring users who have provided their explicit written consent to allow us to access and utilize their videos for such purposes.
Team members are held to "high ethical standards" and there are systems in place to "restrict and audit access to information." Bad actors are subject to a "zero tolerance" response if abuse is detected.

As The Intercept points out, given the information from the sources it spoke to, it is not known if Ring has always used the standards described in its current statement, and past reporting from The Information has suggested that access used to be less restrictive until Amazon purchased the service.

As Ring says, Ring users who are opting into the Neighbors system, which allows for sharing of videos to "create safer videos" are unknowingly opting in to potentially having those videos viewed by Ring employees and there is no mention of that when customers sign up for the feature.

Ring's terms of service and privacy policy do not mention manual or visual annotation by employees, even though that practice is still being used to this day, nor are customers notified that some employees had or could still have access to their camera feeds. Current and prospective Ring customers should be aware of Ring's practices and wary of who has access to their videos.

Tags: Amazon, Ring

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CES 2019: Ring Debuts New Door View Cam, HomeKit Still Not Included

Ring, which was purchased by Amazon last year, today debuted its latest line of home security products. The Ring Door View Cam, its newest doorbell option, is the most notable.

The Door View Cam is designed to replace the viewfinder or peephole built into a front door, and while it doesn't require drilling or permanent door modifications, it does require the removal of the existing peephole.


Ring's Door View Cam fits into the empty space of the viewing hole, filling the space on both sides of the door. It features a rechargeable battery, motion detection, an impact sensor to detect knocking if the doorbell isn't pressed, two-way talk, and 1080p HD video that supports door activity detection, person detection, night vision, and more.


In addition to providing a video feed, the peephole the new Ring camera replaces remains functional. Ring says that the Door View Cam is ideal for apartments and rental locations because of its easy installation.


The Ring Door View Cam will be available in the United States later this year for $199. Ring also plans to release it in UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Ring is also adding new accessories to its Ring Alarm security system, including a $35 smoke and carbon monoxide detector, a $35 flood sensor, and a $30 add-on siren, along with new outdoor lights.

All of Ring's products work with Alexa, but despite promising HomeKit for some of its video doorbell devices, Ring is not adding HomeKit compatibility to any of its new devices. The new Ring Door View Cam, like other Ring doorbell options, does not work with HomeKit.


This article, "CES 2019: Ring Debuts New Door View Cam, HomeKit Still Not Included" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Review: Ring Alarm is a $199 Do-It-Yourself Home Security System That Keeps Things Simple

Last month, Ring began taking pre-orders for its Ring Alarm home security system, and today it begins shipping. I've had a chance to spend some time with Ring Alarm, and I've found it's an easy-to-use security system that's useful with or without professional monitoring.


Priced at $199 for the base kit, the Ring Alarm comes with a base station, a separate keypad, one motion detector, one contact sensor for a door or window, and a range extender to help make sure all of your Ring accessories remain connected to your network.

Additional contact sensors ($20), motion detectors ($30), keypads ($50), and range extenders ($25) can be purchased separately to expand your system. Other Ring Alarm accessories including a flood and freeze sensor as well as a smoke and CO listener to integrate your existing detectors into the Ring ecosystem are coming later.

I'm a Ring user, with a Video Doorbell 2 and a Floodlight Cam already installed at my house, but I don't have any prior experience with home security systems. That made for a bit of a learning curve just in terms of figuring out how I wanted to set things up and remembering to arm/disarm the system at the appropriate times. But Ring Alarm is intended as a simple do-it-yourself system that makes it easy for even novice users to get up and running, so perhaps I'm an ideal candidate for testing things out.

Setup


Setup of Ring Alarm is quite simple, and the whole process only took me about half an hour, although I used the included adhesive strips to mount sensors and didn't mount the base station and keypad to my walls, so it would have taken a bit longer if I'd gone all-in with hardware mounting options. I may yet do that once I've decided for sure where I want to put the various components.

Regardless of whether you go the adhesive or hardware route, Ring provides everything you need right in the box, with installation kits for each component of the system conveniently boxed and labeled to make it easy to find what you need. All you'll need if you want to use the included screws and anchors for hardware mounting are a screwdriver and a drill.

Ring Alarm base station

The first step of installation involves simply plugging in the base station and hitting a pairing button on the back to start configuring the system via Bluetooth. The Ring app, which is getting a significant redesign to provide quick access to Ring Alarm and improve functionality for other Ring products, walks you through the entire setup process step-by-step, so it's hard to mess things up. Once the base station starts up, you can connect to your home network via either Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and I elected to use Wi-Fi to minimize wires.

Rear of base station

With the base station up and running, I was able to verify the address associated with my Ring account, enter my closest cross street to assist emergency responders, and add emergency contacts to be notified if the alarm trips. Adding a verbal password to authenticate my account when Ring calls due to an alarm event was the last step, and I was good to go with the 30-day free trial of professional monitoring. After the free trial, professional monitoring costs $10 per month or $100 per year, and it also includes cloud video storage for any other Ring camera and doorbell products you have in your home.


Once the base station is online and your account set up for monitoring, the rest of the devices in your starter kit are automatically identified in the Ring app and you can set them up one by one. With each one, you can provide a name and room location to help identify the accessories in notifications and the app. With the keypad, you'll set up an access code that lets you arm and disarm the alarm, and you can set up different codes for different people. As you set up each motion detector and contact sensor, the app will have you test each one to ensure that they're probably detecting events.

Ring Alarm keypad

The keypad includes a reversible mount that can be attached to a wall as a bracket or flipped over and used as a tabletop stand at a slight incline. Ring includes a micro-USB cable and an adapter to power the keypad, but it also has an internal rechargeable battery that can last up to a year depending on your settings, so it's handy to be able to set it up wirelessly on a table or mounted to the wall, only recharging periodically as needed.

Motion detector mounted in corner

Ring suggests that the motion detector should be placed in a location with a good view of a high-traffic area likely to be passed by any intruders, with the detector placed about seven feet off the floor. Motion detection sensitivity can be adjusted in the app if you find you're getting too many false alerts such as from a pet. The detector can be mounted using either adhesive or included screws that attach a bracket to the wall for easy removal of the detector itself.

Contact sensor mounted to door

Contact sensors come in two pieces, a large sensor part and a smaller magnet part, and both pieces must be aligned within 1/4 inch of each other when the door or window is closed. One piece goes on the door or window while the second part goes on the frame, but it doesn't matter which part goes on which side. When the door or window is opened, the two parts are separated, and the sensor triggers.

The Ring Alarm also includes a Z-Wave range extender that helps make sure everything in your alarm system is able to reach your network, but I found I did not need the extender.


Standalone accessories can be added to your setup in a similar manner to those included in the base kit, although you'll have to scan a QR code on the back of them using the Ring app in order to get them to appear. From there, it's the same process of choosing the sensor type, naming it, assigning it to a room, and testing to make sure it's registering properly.


Operation


With everything up and running, you're ready to go. Ring Alarm supports three modes: disarmed, home, and away. Disarmed mode, unsurprisingly, will not activate the alarm if any of your sensors are tripped. The base station will chirp by default when a door is opened in disarmed mode, for example, but these chirps can also be turned off.


In home mode, the default setup is for motion sensors to be ignored while door/window sensors will trigger the alarm to activate. This mode is obviously intended for when you're moving around inside your home but want to be protected if someone enters the house through a monitored door or window. Finally, away mode arms all sensors so that any opened monitored door or window or movement within the house will set off the alarm.


With home and away modes, you're able to customize entry and exit delays up to two minutes before the alarm goes off, giving you enough time to leave the house after arming and enter the access code on the keypad upon returning home. When an event is detected, you'll get a notification on your phone, and the Ring app will display a countdown giving you the configured period of time to disarm the system before the alarm goes off. If you fail to enter the keypad code or disarm from the Ring app within the allowed time, the base station will emit a very loud beeping sound, and if you are signed up for professional monitoring, authorities will be notified.

Ring Alarm supports a sensor bypass mode, which allows you to arm the system even if one of the sensors is currently tripped. For example, if you want to arm the alarm but leave a monitored window open, the system will notify you upon arming that one of the sensors is currently faulted. You can choose to close the window to clear the sensor or bypass it, which will arm the system but not monitor that sensor until the next disarm/arm cycle.

Monitoring


As part of the Ring Protect Plus plan priced at $10 per month or $100 per year, you'll get 24/7 professional monitoring on your Ring Alarm. When your sensors trip and the base station sounds an alarm, after 30 seconds it also sends a signal to Ring's central monitoring system. A support agent will attempt to call you to see if everything is okay, and then tries your emergency contacts if you can't be reached.

Either you or one of your emergency contacts must give the correct verbal password in order to confirm authorization to deal with the alarm situation. Emergency responders will be dispatched if you give the incorrect password, request a response after giving the correct password, or if you and your emergency contacts can not be reached.


Ring does include a practice mode with its professional monitoring, and by default for the first seven days after activating your account authorities will not be contacted if the alarm is triggered. This gives you time to learn how your system works without burdening authorities with false alarms. If you wish to exit practice mode before the seven-day period is up, you can do that, but Ring will warn you in the app about the importance of making sure everything is working properly before you do that.

Some jurisdictions require permits for monitored alarm systems, and Ring will guide you based on the address where you're using Ring Alarm. In some areas, Ring can obtain the permit on your behalf once you pay required fees, but in other jurisdictions you'll need to handle it on your own. Either way, once you have your permit, you can enter the permit number and expiration date in the Ring app to make all parties aware that your system is properly registered. My town does not require permits, so I did not need to go through this step.

As part of professional monitoring, the Ring Protect Plus plan also includes cellular backup connectivity, allowing your base station to contact the monitoring center even if your internet goes down. The base station itself also includes a battery backup that lasts up to 24 hours, so you're even protected if the power goes out.

Beyond monitoring, Ring Protect Plus includes cloud video recording for an unlimited number of Ring cameras and doorbells at your home, an extended warranty for as long as you're on the plan, and a 10 percent discount on Ring doorbells and cameras.

If you don't want professional monitoring, you can forego the Protect Plus plan. You'll still get notifications of alarm events and the base station can sound an alarm, but there will be no connection to a monitoring center and thus no automatic deployment of emergency responders.

Wrap-up


Ring's entire philosophy revolves around making technologically advanced home security simple to install and use without being intimidating, and Ring Alarm certainly achieves that.

What's also important about Ring Alarm is that it sets the stage for future products and integration. The Ring app already serves as the hub to integrate the alarm system with the company's existing cameras and doorbells, but it's easy to see how the alarm can also become the hardware hub for new capabilities and products from Ring and eventually third-party vendors.

Many alarm systems integrate base station and keypad functionalities into a single unit, but Ring has made an interesting decision to separate the two, recognizing that these don't always need to be colocated. The base station serves best located centrally in the home in order to optimize wireless connections to all sensors and to centralize the alarm sound, while the keypad is likely to be placed close to the main point of entry for easy access.

At $199, the Ring Alarm base kit is a relatively low-cost, do-it-yourself way to get into home security, although you'll likely want to spring for a few additional sensors to fill out coverage of your home. Ring's professional monitoring plan is also quite competitive, and overall Ring Alarm looks like a well thought out system.

The one thing Apple fans might miss is HomeKit support, which isn't included in Ring Alarm and still has yet to come several other Ring products for which HomeKit support was promised long ago. Ring declined to offer any new details on its HomeKit plans, but acknowledged that customers continue to request it and promised the company is still working on it.

Note: Ring provided the Ring Alarm base kit and two additional contact sensors to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: Ring

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Ring’s New $199 ‘Ring Alarm’ Security System Now Available for Pre-Order

Ring, the Amazon-owned company known for its camera-equipped doorbells, today announced that its new Ring Alarm security system is now available for pre-order and will begin shipping out on July 3.

First announced in the fall of 2017, the Ring Alarm is marketed as a "do-it-yourself" home security system that does not require professional installation, nor are its users required to sign up for a long-term contract.


For $199, the Ring Alarm system includes a Base Station, a Keypad, a Contact Sensor that can be situated on a window or a door, a Motion Detector, and a Range Extender.

It is designed to be paired with existing Ring Cameras (including doorbells, the Floodlight Cam and the Spotlight Cam) to create what Ring calls a "Ring of Security" for the home. Ring is charging $10 per month for the Ring Protect Plus Plan for the Ring Alarm, with 24/7 "professional monitoring," video recording, and backup LTE connectivity included at that price.


As the Ring Alarm is a "DIY" system, setup consists of connecting the Base Station and the Keypad to the home's Wi-Fi and installing one or more Contact Sensors to doors and windows. The Motion Sensor is designed to be placed in an area where you want to monitor for movement while away from home or sleeping, such as a front entryway.

Once set up, the Ring Alarm can be set to an "armed" mode, where it will monitor the home and send alerts if doors or windows are accessed or motion is detected. An included Base Station siren will sound when one of the sensors is triggered while the system is armed.


According to Ring, the Ring Alarm system is equipped with a battery and an LTE cellular backup option so that it continues to function in the event of a power or Wi-Fi outage. Ring Alarm, in addition to integrating with existing Ring products, will work with the First Alert smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which can set off the Base Station in the event of an emergency.

Ring says that in the future, it will release additional products that are designed to integrate with the Ring Alarm, including a $30 Smoke and CO Listener, a $30 Flood and Freeze Sensor, and a $30 Dome Siren which offers customizable alarm tones and volume levels.

Ring Alarm can be pre-ordered from Ring.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy, or Home Depot for $199 starting today. Orders will start shipping out on July 3, with the first orders arriving on the Fourth of July.

Tag: Ring

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Ring Launches Standalone ‘Neighbors’ iOS App for Crowdsourcing and Preventing Criminal Activity

Ring today launched a standalone "Neighbors" app on iOS [Direct Link] and Android devices, pulling out the local security and crime-prevention feature from the main Ring app into a standalone experience.

With Neighbors, Ring connects users in a nearby area who own any model of the Ring doorbell, and allows them to upload footage of criminal activity to make it easier to prevent and catch package thieves, burglars, and more. Users can scroll through their Neighborhood's recent feeds to check out potential crimes and other safety posts shared by nearby Ring owners and the Ring team. Feed posts include text, photo, or video alerts captured via Ring doorbells.


The app can warn users about topics like Crime, Suspicious activity, Safety warnings, and Strangers wandering around.
Jamie Siminoff, Chief Inventor and Founder of Ring, said: “At Ring, we come to work every day with the mission of reducing crime in neighborhoods. Over the past few years we have learned that, when neighbors, the Ring team and law enforcement all work together, we can create safer communities.

Neighbors is meant to facilitate real-time communication between these groups, while maintaining neighbor privacy first and foremost. By bringing security to every neighbor with the free Neighbors app, communities can stay on top of crime and safety alerts as they happen.”
Additionally, police and sheriff's departments throughout the United States are now joining Neighbors in an expansion of the crime-stopping program. Local law enforcement will be able to share real-time crime and safety alerts with their communities, and users will see the updates in their Neighbors feeds, which also includes an interactive map.

The debut of a standalone Neighbors app follows Amazon's acquisition of Ring in February, and a price drop to $99 for the Ring Video Doorbell in April. In the wake of the acquisition, Ring promised customers that HomeKit support is still coming, stating that the Ring Pro and Floodlight Cam are currently being tested for HomeKit, "and as soon as testing is completed" the company will "update everyone with a release date."

Neighbors by Ring is available to download for free on the iOS App Store [Direct Link].

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Ring Video Doorbell Gets New $99 Price Tag Following Amazon Acquisition

Ring today announced [PDF] that its acquisition by Amazon has been completed, and following the merger, Amazon has permanently dropped the price tag of the entry-level first-generation Ring Video Doorbell.

The Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell is now available from Amazon for $99.99, $50 off of the original $149 MSRP for the accessory. The Video Doorbell, which offers 720p video, is designed to allow you to see and speak to anyone who comes to the door using a connected smartphone.

While the entry-level Ring is available for $99, upgraded versions are more expensive. The Video Doorbell 2 with 1080p resolution is $199, the Video Doorbell Pro, which is hardwired, is $249, and the Video Doorbell Elite, described as a "professional-grade doorbell" is $499. Ring also makes a line of Spotlight and Floodlight Cams.

Ring and Amazon are aiming to cut down on crime in neighborhoods with their partnership, and an LAPD pilot program has suggested the Ring Video Doorbell can reduce burglaries by as much as 55 percent.
"Our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods has been at the core of everything we do at Ring," said Jamie Siminoff, CEO and Chief Inventor of Ring. "Together with Amazon, we will accelerate our mission dramatically by connecting more neighbors globally and making our security devices and systems more affordable and accessible. The entire Ring team is excited to continue working hard to create products and services that bring real benefits to people's lives and build safer communities for all our neighbors."
Ring has been promising to add HomeKit integration to its products for months now, and the company says that despite its Amazon acquisition, HomeKit support continues to be in the works for the Ring Pro and the Floodlight Cam.

Amazon first announced its acquisition of Ring back in late February, paying over $1 billion for the smart home company. Ring is part of a new smart home strategy for Amazon, and marks Amazon's second major smart home purchase following its December Blink acquisition.


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Amazon Acquiring Video Doorbell Maker Ring, but HomeKit Support is Still Coming

Amazon is acquiring Ring, the company that makes a range of WiFi-enabled home security products that include video doorbells, reports GeekWire. The two companies are expected to officially announce the acquisition news later this afternoon, but provided a statement to GeekWire.
"Ring is committed to our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods by providing effective yet affordable home security tools to our neighbors that make a positive impact on our homes, our communities, and the world," a Ring spokesperson said in a statement. "We'll be able to achieve even more by partnering with an inventive, customer-centric company like Amazon. We look forward to being a part of the Amazon team as we work toward our vision for safer neighborhoods."
Many customers who own Ring products have been eagerly awaiting integration with Apple's HomeKit platform, and though Amazon is purchasing the company, Ring has this afternoon promised on Twitter that support is still coming. According to Ring, HomeKit support is being tested for Ring Pro and the Floodlight Cam, with the company promising to offer details on a release date following once testing is completed.

HomeKit support is a feature that Ring has been promising for some time. In October, for example, Ring said bringing HomeKit support to its Ring Pro and Floodlight Cam was an "ongoing project" but had "been delayed." Ring support for Amazon's Alexa products has been available for months now.


Ring has been offering video doorbells for several years now, and recently expanded its product lineup with additional cameras and a new range of connected lights added to the Ring lineup through an acquisition of Mr. Beam.

Amazon has recently become interested in smart home-related companies, and back in December, purchased Blink, another company that offers home security cameras and video doorbells. Amazon has also released its own home security camera, the Cloud Cam.

Amazon's interest in smart home products stems from its Amazon Echo line of products, which offer Alexa integration and allow users to control their third-party smart home devices. Alexa works with many of the smart home products on the market today.

Tags: HomeKit, Ring

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CES 2018: Ring Announces New Line of Home Security Devices

Ring, the company behind the well-known Ring video doorbell, today announced the launch of a full home security ecosystem that includes a range of new products like indoor/outdoor security cameras and connected outdoor lights.

The new battery-powered Stick Up Cam, which is compatible with the Ring Solar Panel Charger, is a weatherproof security camera that's designed to work both indoors and outdoors. It supports 1080p HD video, two-way audio, and a built-in passive infrared motion sensors with zone detection.


The WiFi-enabled Stick Up Cam Elite also works indoors and outdoors, but rather than a battery, it's powered via standard wall outlet or Ethernet connection. It features the same 1080p video and two-way audio, along with advanced motion sensors with zone detection.


Ring Beams are new smart lights that came from a recent Ring acquisition of Mr Beams, an LED lighting company. Ring Beams, which are lights that are designed to be used outdoors, include a nightlight, a motion sensor, a light designed for a pathway, a and spotlight. Ring Beams integrate with the Ring app and all of Ring's security cameras and doorbells.


Ring also announced that its professionally monitored customizable home security system, will start shipping out to customers in the spring of 2018. The Ring security system, priced at $199, includes accessories like a Base Station, Keypad, Contact Sensor, Passive Infrared Sensor, and Z-Wave Extender. It also includes 24/7 professional monitoring and cloud video storage for a $10 per month fee.

Additional information about all of Ring's new products debuting at the Consumer Electronics Show can be found on the Ring website. Ring's new accessories will be launching later in 2018.

Tags: Ring, CES 2018

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Ring’s Video Doorbell 2 Brings Battery-Powered 1080p Video Security to Your Front Door

Earlier this year, popular smart doorbell and home security company Ring debuted its Video Doorbell 2, equipped with a motion sensing 1080p camera, a removable battery, and two-way audio capabilities. Integration with Ring's mobile app lets you see activity at your door from anywhere, and even communicate with visitors.


The Video Doorbell 2 is priced at $199 and can either replace an existing wired doorbell or be freshly installed in either a wired or a battery-powered configuration.

We've been testing one out over the past month to see how it works on a standalone basis and in conjunction with the Floodlight Cam and Chime Pro accessory we reviewed a couple of months ago, so read on to see what we thought of it.
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Review: Ring’s Floodlight Cam Offers Convenient Home Security, but HomeKit Support Still Missing

Back in January, Ring introduced its motion-activated Floodlight Cam, pairing a security camera with two bright floodlights to help protect users' homes. The Floodlight Cam began shipping in April, and I've been using one for about six weeks to monitor the rear of my house. It's a handy product that lets you keep tabs on movement around your home, with push notifications, live and recorded camera views, and the ability to use two-way talk and a siren to communicate with people approaching your home.


The hardwired Floodlight Cam includes a pair of floodlights with a 270-degree motion sensor, combined with a camera capable of 1080p HD video, enhanced night vision, 140-degree field of view, and a cloud recording subscription plan. It's priced at $249 (or $449 for a two-pack) and is available in black or white.
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