Wyze Wisely Learns From Its Past Comms Mistakes

Thom Weidlich 02.22.24


Security-camera maker Wyze Labs had a glitch last Friday that allowed 13,000 customers to access images of other customers’ homes. Creepy! Yet, the Seattle-based outfit seems to have taken to heart criticism of its comms surrounding a similar incident five months ago, and done a better job this time.

Early morning Seattle time on Feb. 16, Wyze confirmed on its forums page an outage that prevented customers from using their security cameras. Later that afternoon, it said that, due to the outage overloading its servers and corrupting user data, 14 customers reported being able to see thumbnail pictures of strangers’ homes. For the most part, people couldn’t access the video itself, though some apparently could.

Wyze (pronounced “wise”) responded by restricting access to the Events tab, where the errant pics appeared. The Events tab is a timeline of video clips of something visual or oral happening, such as a person walking or a dog barking.

Customers’ anger is understandable. The outage occurred in the early-morning hours, which is when you sort of want your security camera to work. And people unknown to you being able to see pics of your home is, as we say, creepy.

Four Emails

On Monday morning (a U.S. holiday), Wyze noted on the forum that it had sent out four separate (though, obviously, similar) emails to all its customers segmented by how they were affected (or not) by the issue. The categories were those unaffected, those whose thumbnails became available to others but were not tapped (which would enlarge the picture), those whose thumbnails became available to others and were tapped, and those who gained access to other houses’ thumbnails but their own were not made available.

In a show of transparency, Wyze posted the text of all four emails on the forum. It’s also interesting (and gutsy) that the company uses a forum as its main communications tool and allows customers to respond to its posts. Some comments aren’t kind.

The content of the emails was startling. Wyze could say, and did say up top, that 99.75 percent of its customers were unaffected. But, while it originally had 14 reports of customers able to access strangers’ thumbnails, it now revealed that 13,000 could (the ballooning numbers are reminiscent of the 23andMe data breach). Of those, 1,504 tapped them, which in some cases allowed the video to be viewed.

September Episode

Wyze’s transparency is a welcome contrast to its September episode. In fact, criticism of its response to that earlier event may have forced the company to change its comms approach.

Back then, Wyze admitted that, for 40 minutes, up to 2,300 users could view video feeds from 10 customers, which it blamed on a “web-caching issue.” In response, The New York Times’ Wirecutter review site yanked its recommendation of Wyze security cameras. It also criticized the company’s communications: “Other than a post to its user-to-user online forum, Wyze Communities, and communication to those it says were affected, the company has not reached out to Wyze customers, nor has it provided meaningful details about the incident.”

As for its latest communications effort, one commentor on the forum wrote, “I like that this time there was an email sent to everyone identifying all the different conditions/categories of people affected (or not). I see this as a step in the right direction and something that everyone was asking for to be done differently for any future issues.”

Crisis communications entails evaluating your response to past negative situations and learning from the mistakes. Wyze was wise to do that.

Photo Credit: Fuss Sergey/Shutterstock

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter on crisis communications. Each week we highlight a crisis story in the news or a survey or study with an eye toward the type of best practices and strategies you can put to work each day. Click here to subscribe.