Ring Will Now Require Law Enforcement Requests For Camera Footage To Be Made Publicly
from the forcing-cops-to-form-a-better-relationship-with-those-they-serve dept
Ring, Amazon’s doorbell camera acquisition, has long considered itself to be an integral part of law enforcement. It has aggressively pursued partnerships with local governments, offering up cheap (or free) cameras in exchange for recommendations and installations by law enforcement agencies.
Hundreds of law enforcement agencies have decided Ring provides a welcome new stream of surveillance footage, all captured by private cameras. Although Ring suggests users only capture their immediate doorsteps (or the interiors of their houses), plenty of cameras provide users (and law enforcement) with an insight into the movements of other people as they traverse nearby sidewalks and streets.
Ring has racked up an impressive amount of negative press over the last couple of years — mainly because it appears to consider owners of cameras as little more than footage portals for government agencies. It has provided guidance to law enforcement agencies on how to bypass warrant requirements and given them cameras to hand out with the implicit suggestion the favor will be returned whenever officers come asking for recordings.
It appears Ring has realized its aggressive courting of law enforcement isn’t doing much for its reputation. Its parent company, Amazon, recently extended its moratorium on providing facial recognition tech to government agencies. Its doorbell/camera subsidiary hasn’t said much lately about its facial recognition plans (and there’s nothing stopping cops from running Ring footage through their own tech), but it is stepping up to make its relationship with law enforcement more transparent. (via CNBC)
Beginning next week, public safety agencies will only be able to request information or video from their communities through a new, publicly viewable post category on Neighbors called Request for Assistance. Public safety agencies can use these posts to notify residents of an incident and ask their communities for help related to an investigation. All Request for Assistance posts will be publicly viewable in the Neighbors feed, and logged on the agency’s public profile. This way, anyone interested in knowing more about how their police agency is using Request for Assistance posts can simply visit the agency’s profile and see the post history.
This is the best way to approach this. And I assume there’s a little bit of public pressure in play. Neighbors might lean on other neighbors when something violent or destructive goes down in their neighborhood but some Ring owners aren’t playing ball with the local PD. That may increase “engagement,” but probably only slightly.
On the other hand, it will deter law enforcement agencies from engaging in fishing expeditions for footage that they feel might provide some insight or just want to use for other purposes, like keeping an eye on people engaged in First Amendment activities.
Warrants served by law enforcement agencies won’t be posted to this portal. This is just for informal requests for assistance. And that’s fine. Warrants need probable cause and a judge’s signature, which obviously doesn’t guarantee probable cause exists to demand footage, but is far more oversight than the nothing at all that accompanies direct requests to Ring owners via Ring-enabled law enforcement portals. And law enforcement can always approach Ring directly with subpoenas and warrants, bypassing Ring owners completely, so there’s a built-in way to avoid interacting with the public if that’s what agencies prefer to do.
This is a positive step away from the precipice by Ring. The company has long considered its customers to be little more than contributors to ever-expanding law enforcement surveillance networks. Its move towards more transparency suggests it has been listening to its critics and the concerns of its customers, which is something it really hasn’t done since its emergence as a major player in the home camera market.