Ring Continues To Pitch Facial Recognition To Law Enforcement While Claiming It Won't Be Adding Facial Recognition To Its Cameras

from the boths-sides-of-mouth-fully-operational dept

Ring continues to insist it is not adding facial recognition to its sadly super-popular doorbell cameras. Its insistence is suspect for several reasons.

First, it employs a “Head of Facial Recognition Tech” at its Ukraine office. A company that isn’t planning to add facial recognition doesn’t need anyone in charge of tech it’s not planning on using.

Second, its lengthy answers to Congressional questions stated that the company would continue to develop and explore other options in response to “customer demand.” If enough customers express an interest in facial recognition, Ring would be stupid not to add that to its list of features, even if it has spent months denying it ever plans to do so.

Third, its answers to direct questions about facial recognition software are anything but direct. Cyrus Farivar of NBC News asked Ring about this feature after receiving something that indicated otherwise from a public records request. The response sounds firm but really isn’t.

Morgan Culbertson, Ring spox, emailed:

“The features described are not in development or in use, and Ring does not use facial recognition technology…”

This sounds definitive but Ring’s pitch to cops — obtained by Farivar — says something different:

At the 1:30 mark, the video says the company is working on future versions that will include “suspicious activity detection and person recognition.”

How does the company reconcile this pitch to law enforcement with its public statements on the subject? It can’t. So, it doesn’t. Farivar’s questions to Ring about this video went unanswered.

Maybe the explanation is that Ring isn’t planning to add it to its consumer products but is developing something for law enforcement to apply to footage via its portal. This would allow Ring to continue to claim it’s not adding facial recognition software to its cameras while still making use of its “Head of Facial Recognition” person.

But there’s also no reason to believe Ring is being honest about any of this. Like any company under the x-ray, it will say what serves it best right now even if it means rolling back those quasi-promises the minute Ring feels it can get away with making its products even more problematic.

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Companies: amazon, ring

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Comments on “Ring Continues To Pitch Facial Recognition To Law Enforcement While Claiming It Won't Be Adding Facial Recognition To Its Cameras”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Agreed. To be fair, however, the "person recognition" that they describe may be limited to recognizing that there is a person (any person) as many of the new security cameras do.

Further (and more of a stretch), the face recognition technology that they eventually do employ could be used for recognizing the face of the system owner so the owner doesn’t get a ton of notifications linking to video of his or her self walking around the property. If this could be done on the device (without the cloud), it would raise few new concerns relating to privacy.

Ed (profile) says:

More of the hyperbole over Ring...

Are ad views down and you need some more clickbait? The hyperbolic hardon that you and some of the media have over Ring was amusing at first. Now it’s just sad. I have three Ring cameras and I like them very much. I wasn’t stupid, so I have always used strong unique login credentials for them (as I do all connected devices and accounts), and I never activated the "sharing", as I don’t care for the "neighborhood gossip" aspect. The cameras function very well and give me the peace-of-mind I wanted.

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