Ring Considered Using 911 Calls To Trigger Automated Streaming Of Camera Footage To Local PDs

from the bringing-the-police-state-home dept

Amazon's Ring doorbell/camera venture hasn't met a news cycle it can't fill with unintentionally-bad PR. Every time someone thinks they've heard the last odious effort by this company to become an unofficial extension of police department surveillance networks, another set of documents obtained through public records requests resets the counter to "zero days since last PR black eye."

To date, the company that's already formed partnerships with nearly 400 law enforcement agencies has:

Here's the latest PR coup by the expert self-maligners, as reported by Alfred Ng for CNET:

Ring considered building a tool that would use calls to the 911 emergency number to automatically activate the video cameras on its smart doorbells, according to emails obtained by CNET. The Amazon-owned company isn't currently working on the project, but it told a California police department in August 2018 that the function could be introduced in the "not-so-distant future."

One email obtained by CNET expressed the company's desire to implement a "call-for-service" trigger for recording. And not just recording. The cameras would start streaming footage to police departments partnering with Ring to give them a live feed of the affected (triggered?) area. Ring doorbell users would have to opt in, at least, but the pressure to do so would obviously be increased if the users got their doorbell cameras for free from their friendly local PD.

It appears this plan has been ditched, which will allow Ring to steer clear of at least one more terrible news cycle. That being said, everything else that's bad about this private/public partnership remains true, which isn't going to somehow start being less bad any time soon.

Ring's stated prioritization of customer privacy continues to ring (sorry) hollow. The company pushes users and police departments to gravitate towards its snitch app, where users can be encouraged to "share" footage of "suspicious" events, relieving cops of the burden of requesting footage from users or Ring itself. Investigators can still approach Ring directly for camera footage if residents aren't willing to cooperate. Ring says it only complies with "lawful demands" for recordings. What it doesn't say it that the "lawful demand" is usually a subpoena, not a warrant.

This is working out well for Ring. It's probably also working out fine for local law enforcement agencies. The latter seems very willing to cede creative control to Ring, so whatever relationship these parties have must be beneficial enough that cop shops don't mind taking a backseat to Ring's spin team. Ring seems willing to ride out these turbulent news cycles without making any changes to its business model. And why should it? It has claimed over 95% of the doorbell/camera market and is living rent-free in the hearts and minds of over 400 law enforcement agencies.

Filed Under: 911 calls, doorbells, police, privacy, streaming
Companies: amazon, ring


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2019 @ 12:57pm

    This is working out well for Ring. It's probably also working out fine for local law enforcement agencies. The latter seems very willing to cede creative control to Ring, so whatever relationship these parties have must be beneficial enough that cop shops don't mind taking a backseat to Ring's spin team. Ring seems willing to ride out these turbulent news cycles without making any changes to its business model.

    Between law enforcement getting in bed with the makers of the Stingray and now Ring we're seeing the first steps of our police forces becoming entirely corporate-run. So many science fiction stories coming true...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2019 @ 1:09pm

    The company pushes users and police departments to gravitate towards its snitch app

    As big of a company as Amazon is, you'd think at least one person there is aware of the phrase "Snitches get stitches."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2019 @ 1:11pm

    Video with acceptable resolution can result in a large file, uploading of said file can result in overage charges ... who pays for that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    norahc (profile), 30 Sep 2019 @ 1:19pm

    In next week's news, Ring will announce a partnership with Axion. Tasers will be installed in Ring doorbells so that the cops can subdue suspicious people. In an effort to promote officer safety, citizens will not be able to activate the tasers so they aren't used on law enforcement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 30 Sep 2019 @ 1:52pm

    It was only a matter of time

    It was only a matter of time. Not if, but when the US would become a police, surveillance state.

    I saw an interview with the writer of A Handmaid's Tale when the movie came out at least 20 years ago. She said that rights are usually not eliminated all at once. It's "just a little, just for now". Conveniently the war on drugs, terrorism, crime never ends so the "now" is indefinite and the little becomes a lot. The circumstances are the risks faced by any society but crisis are exploited to justify taking a little more. For example the misrepresented opioid epidemic fast tracked invasive new laws. Doctors are now mandated to use a prescription tracking system which the police can access without a warrant because of the third party doctrine. Just like that your medical privacy rights were eliminated.

    Crime is at historic lows but it still took very little effort to exploit the masses perceived sense of vulnerability. They are the deputies in the war against everything. The half-hearted deputies, the neighbors who ask too many questions or don't turn over their data quickly enough will ultimately be punished.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 3:06am

    Convenience, Privacy, Security; choose 2.

    As much as Ring et. al. are screwing people over, it really is the end consumer that needs the education, rather than the companies being regulated.

    I much prefer a market solution to a regulatory one, but if things keep going this way and with such poor consumer understanding, regulation is where you end up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:13am

      Re: Convenience, Privacy, Security; choose 2.

      It's not like our government has a history of respecting marketplace or even regulatory solutions that interfer with their convenience so I highly doubt either will be effective.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2019 @ 4:13am

    What about the responsibility of the homeowners who willingly install Big Brother on their doorstep in the first place?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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