The Amazon Ring Surveillance State?

Internet privacy is already a fleeting concept with your ISP and numerous companies tracking your every online move, but now it’s getting even more personal with your security videos potentially being shared with law enforcement. Amazon Ring, creator of the popular Ring Video Doorbell, has entered into agreements with hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country. These agreements allow police departments to promote Amazon Ring devices and grants those departments access to video footage recorded by Ring users without the need for a warrant.

Ring, a smart device home security company, was acquired by Amazon in 2018. Their primary product is the Ring Video Doorbell, which uses a motion sensor to activate a high-definition camera recording activity and sending it to the mobile app on the homeowner’s smartphone. The doorbell also contains a microphone and speaker allowing the homeowner to interact with the person or persons at the door.

Later in 2018, Ring launched their Neighbors app, which allows homeowners to join a “social” network, allowing them to report crimes, share information about suspicious activities and share video captured by their Ring devices. The Neighbors app also allow local police departments to join the social network, accessing and join discussions and view the shared videos.

Ring invites police departments to partner with Amazon to get access to the Ring “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal” showing user registered Ring devices and request video footage. The police do not need a warrant to request this footage, only the permission of the Ring user. Users can decline these requests and even unsubscribe from receiving requests in the future; however, Amazon is coaching police on how to persuade users to share their video footage.

The biggest issue with Ring and the partnerships with police is that once your image is captured it is no longer in your control, similar to what occurs whenever you post a picture of yourself on the Internet, but with Ring all you have to do is walk past a house with a Ring doorbell and your image is captured.

Since no warrants are needed, these police partnerships can allow police to collect large amounts of video footage, which they could keep indefinitely and once collected it can be analyzed with facial recognition software, even is unrelated to any criminal investigation. These abilities are in effect creating a large surveillance network providing both law enforcement and Amazon with video footage that they can potentially use however they wish.

By marketing on the public’s desire for safety, Amazon has used this to buildout a large nationwide surveillance network. Late last year, the tech-focused nonprofit “Fight For the Future” published on open letter to public officials raising concerns about the Ring and police partnerships and the impacts on the public’s privacy.

To people concerned and looking for a video doorbell or other video security system, consider alternatives that do not upload and share your video footage. There are numerous systems available that store your footage at home, but still give you the ability to share with law enforcement if an incident or crime is committed.

Protect our privacy is becoming increasingly more difficult as technology permeates all aspects of our lives, but we should not give our information and data away to for-profit organizations and law enforcement just so we feel safer.

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