Surveillance footage of Amazon Ring doorbells has been provided to US police 11 times so far in 2022, without a warrant or owner’s consent
Amazon may be embroiled in another privacy spat in the US over surveillance data captured by its Ring doorbells.
The Amazon division confirmed in a letter to a US senator that Ring has provided surveillance footage to law enforcement on 11 occasions this year alone without a warrant or permission from doorbell owners.
Ring, of course, was acquired by Amazon for $1 billion in 2018 and has continued to grow in popularity as more and more homeowners look to bolster their residential security measures.
But Ring’s popularity has not been without controversy.
For example, in January 2020, an investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned that the Ring Android app was “packed with third-party trackers” that provided an “abundance of personally identifiable information (PII) from customers” to five and marketing companies.
In March 2020, privacy concerns came up again after it was reported that Amazon was tracking every move detected by its Ring doorbells.
But by far the biggest concern for privacy activists is that Ring’s products are being used by an increasing number of law enforcement agencies in the US to facilitate surveillance in cities and towns.
In November 2020, privacy activists raised concerns when police in Jackson, Mississippi, demanded access to residents’ smart doorbells.
Privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said at the time that the Jackson Police Department was conducting a 45-day pilot program to live stream the Amazon Ring cameras of participating residents.
Essentially, police in the Mississippi capital had asked residents to connect their smart doorbells to a real-time surveillance hub, in an effort to fight crime.
Ring has also demonstrated a flying drone with security cameras, but it has not been released by the company.
Image Credit: Amazon
Another concern is Amazon’s proposal to make every Echo speaker and Ring security camera or doorbell in the United States a shared wireless network (Ring Sidewalk).
US users were given just one week to opt out of the proposal, and Amazon is facing legal action over the matter.
Now Amazon’s vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, responded to questions from U.S. Senator Ed Markey in the July 1 letter, which was then made public by his office on Wednesday.
The letter shows that Ring regularly makes its own “good faith” decisions about whether or not to provide surveillance data to law enforcement without a warrant or the consent of the doorbell owner.
“Ring doorbells have always had audio capabilities, helping customers better understand what’s happening on their property,” Huseman said in the letter.
Huseman went on to reveal that the Neighbors Public Safety Service currently has 2,161 law enforcement agencies and 455 fire departments that can request Ring data.
When asked if some police forces have bypassed Ring’s official processes to gain access
user recordings, Huseman responded with the following.
“Ring has introduced Request for Assistance messages on Neighbors to promote transparency in how public safety authorities request information or video from their communities as part of an active investigation,” it said. law enforcement agencies, including programs that provide direct access to users’ devices, and we encourage agencies to use the Request for Assistance feature.”
But then Huseman revealed that under its policy, Ring “reserves the right to promptly respond to urgent requests for information from law enforcement in cases where there is imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to a person.”
The company also requires police to complete a special “emergency request form” if there is an urgent need to bypass the normal law enforcement process, the letter said.
“So far this year, Ring has provided videos to law enforcement officers only 11 times in response to an emergency request,” Huseman said. “In any event, Ring has made a good faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to any person desiring immediate disclosure of information.”
Democrat US Senator Ed Markey expressed concern about Amazon’s response to his questions.
“As my ongoing research on Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, gather and talk in public without being tracked and recorded,” Markey was quoted as saying by CNN as said in a statement.
“We can’t see this as inevitable in our country,” Markey reportedly said. “Law’s increasing reliance on private surveillance is fueling a crisis of responsibility, and I’m particularly concerned that biometric surveillance could be at the center of the growing web of surveillance systems that Amazon and other powerful tech companies are responsible for.”
Amazon’s Ring, of course, has a different take on the matter.
A Ring spokesperson told CNN that the law “authorizes companies such as Ring to disclose information to government agencies if the company believes that an emergency involving life-threatening or serious bodily harm to a person, such as a kidnapping or attempted murder, requires prompt disclosure.” requires.” . Ring faithfully applies that legal standard.”
“It is simply not true that Ring is giving anyone unfettered access to customer data or video, as we have repeatedly made clear to our customers and others,” the spokesperson added.