Amazon’s Ring Ends Police Access to User Doorbell Footage Amid Privacy Concerns
Amazon’s Ring Ends Police Access to User Doorbell Footage Amid Privacy Concerns. Amazon’s Ring has announced it will no longer permit police departments to request footage from user doorbell cameras, ending a practice that has been the subject of privacy concerns. In a recent blog post, Ring stated that the “Request for Assistance” feature in its Neighbors app, which enabled law enforcement agencies to ask for and obtain video from doorbell cameras, will be discontinued. The company, however, did not elaborate on the reasons for this decision, which becomes effective this week.
Eric Kuhn, the leader of the Neighbors program, mentioned that police departments will retain the ability to post publicly in the Neighbors app, and they can continue to distribute safety tips, updates, and information about local events. This move is the most recent in a series of actions taken by Ring to limit police activities on the Neighbors app, following privacy concerns raised by advocates about the company’s ties with police departments nationwide.
Critics have highlighted the potential for these partnerships to transform neighborhoods into heavily surveilled areas, increasing instances of racial profiling. They argue that allowing users to report perceived suspicious activities contributes to this issue.
To enhance transparency, Ring modified its policy in 2021, making police requests visible to the public via the Neighbors app. Before this, police could privately email requests for footage to Ring users living near an investigation site.
Matthew Guariglia, a senior policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, expressed hope that Ring will fully cease facilitating informal and unwarranted police requests for user footage.
Despite these changes, law enforcement can still obtain video footage through a search warrant, and Ring retains the right to share footage without user consent in certain cases. In 2022, Ring disclosed that it shared 11 videos with police without user notification, citing “exigent or emergency” situations, a category that permits video sharing without owner consent. However, Guariglia voiced skepticism about the company’s and police’s ability to accurately define an emergency.
Last year, Ring settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $5.8 million over claims that it allowed employees and contractors to access user videos and had insufficient security practices, leading to account and camera control by hackers. Ring disputes these allegations.
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