Amazon: Cops Can Get Recordings From Ring, Keep Them Forever, And Share Them With Whoever They Want

from the prime-video dept

Even more alarming news has surfaced about Amazon's Ring doorbell/camera and the company's ultra-cozy relationship with police departments.

Since its introduction, Ring has been steadily increasing its market share -- both with homeowners and their public servants. At the beginning of August, this partnership included 200 law enforcement agencies. Three months later, that number has increased to 630.

What do police departments get in exchange for agreeing to be Ring lapdogs? Well, they get a portal that allows them to seek footage from Ring owners, hopefully without a warrant. They also get a built-in PR network that promotes law enforcement wins aided by Ring footage, provided the agencies are willing to let Ring write their press releases for them.

They also get instructions on how to bypass warrant requirements to obtain camera footage from private citizens. Some of this is just a nudge -- an unstated quid pro quo attached to the free cameras cops hand out to homeowners. Some of this is actual instructions on how to word requests so recipients are less likely to wonder about their Fourth Amendment rights. And some of this is Ring itself, which stores footage uploaded by users for law enforcement perusal.

If it seems like a warrant might slow things down -- or law enforcement lacks probable cause to demand footage -- Ring is more than happy to help out. Footage remains a subpoena away at Ring HQ. And, more disturbingly, anything turned over to police departments comes with no strings attached.

Statements given to Sen. Edward Markey by Amazon indicate footage turned over to cops is a gift that keeps on giving.

Police officers who download videos captured by homeowners’ Ring doorbell cameras can keep them forever and share them with whomever they’d like without providing evidence of a crime, the Amazon-owned firm told a lawmaker this month.

Brian Huseman, Amazon's VP of Public Policy, indicates the public is kind of an afterthought when it comes to Ring and its super-lax policies.

Police in those communities can use Ring software to request up to 12 hours of video from anyone within half a square mile of a suspected crime scene, covering a 45-day time span, Huseman wrote. Police are required to include a case number for the crime they are investigating, but not any other details or evidence related to the crime or their request.

Ring itself maintains that it's still very much into protecting users and their safety. Maybe not so much their privacy, though. The company says it takes the "responsibility" of "protecting homes and communities" very seriously. But when it comes to footage, well… that footage apparently belongs to whoever it ends up with.

Ring… "does not own or otherwise control users’ videos, and we intentionally designed the Neighbors Portal to ensure that users get to decide whether to voluntarily provide their videos to the police.”

It's obvious Ring does not "control" recordings. Otherwise, it would place a few more restrictions on the zero-guardrail "partnerships" with law enforcement agencies. But pretending Ring owners are OK with cops sharing their recordings with whoever just because they agreed to share the recording with one agency is disingenuous.

Ring's answers to Markey's pointed questions are simply inadequate. As the Washington Post article notes, Ring claims it makes users agree to install cameras so they won't record public areas like roads or sidewalks, but does nothing to police uploaded footage to ensure this rule is followed. It also claims its does not collect "personal information online from children under the age of 13," but still proudly let everyone know how many trick-or-treaters came to Ring users' doors on Halloween. And, again, it does not vet users' footage to ensure they're not harvesting recordings of children under the age of 13.

The company also hinted it's still looking at adding facial recognition capabilities to its cameras. Amazon's response pointed to competitors' products utilizing this tech and said it would "innovate" based on "customer demand."

While Ring's speedy expansion would have caused some concern, most of that would have been limited to its competitors. That it chose to use law enforcement agencies to boost its signal is vastly more concerning. It's no longer just a home security product. It's a surveillance tool law enforcement agencies can tap into seemingly at will.

Many users would be more than happy to welcome the services of law enforcement if their doorbell cameras captured footage of criminal act that affected them, but Ring's network of law enforcement partners makes camera owners almost extraneous. If cops want footage, Ring will give it to them. And then the cops can do whatever they want with it, even if it doesn't contribute to ongoing investigations.

These answers didn't make Sen. Markey happy. Hopefully, other legislators will find these responses unsatisfactory and start demanding more -- both from law enforcement agencies and Ring itself.

Filed Under: doorbell, ed markey, police, privacy, ring, videos
Companies: amazon, ring


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 12:31pm

    Would Amazon disable video recording when the police are staging a raid? Recordings have shown the police lie on their after action reports.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 12:34pm

    Re:

    It doesn't really matter. Amazon is so cozy that THEY will destroy the recordings before a subpoena arrives.

    Except for eBooks, I think I'm going to start looking more to local stores and online stores that aren't in bed with the police.

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

  3. icon
    Dank710 (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 12:37pm

    Amazon is a bigger threat than Dump

    Amazon is a bigger threat to freedom than Trump ever will be. This ring BS is out of hand.

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

  4. identicon
    What else do they give away?, 25 Nov 2019 @ 12:45pm

    If they give footage, why not network access?

    If the Ring system requires access to my network to run properly, then Ring has all the information they need to 'aid' so-called 'law enforcement' with penetrating my network, sans warrant.

    I'm really curious why they instruct owners not to point cameras at areas that are, by law, not protected from video surveillance, i.e., 'public areas like roads or sidewalks' where there is no expectation of privacy? Is that so they can appear to not be contributing to the surveillance state? What a joke. Never getting installed in my home.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 1:11pm

    Call me optimistic, but I keep hoping this big data driven corporate/government surveillance society will cause people to realize 1984 is a warning, not an instruction manual

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

  6. icon
    Norahc (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 3:21pm

    Anyone else see Amazon connecting Alexa to Ring, thereby giving cops even more surveillance?

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

  7. identicon
    Rekrul, 25 Nov 2019 @ 4:18pm

    As the Washington Post article notes, Ring claims it makes users agree to install cameras so they won't record public areas like roads or sidewalks, but does nothing to police uploaded footage to ensure this rule is followed.

    Ring is installed in the doorbell next to people's front doors. Front doors generally face the street. So what kind of weird setup does Amazon expect people to have where a doorbell camera for their front door doesn't record the street?

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

  8. icon
    Norahc (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 7:37pm

    Ring is installed in the doorbell next to people's front doors. Front doors generally face the street. So what kind of weird setup does Amazon expect people to have where a doorbell camera for their front door doesn't record the street?

    Too easy.

    Cops are hoping you install it inside the house, so they have round the clock warrant free surveillance of you.

    Nnneexxxttt!

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2019 @ 5:54am

    Re: Amazon is a bigger threat than Dump

    Really now?

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2019 @ 8:00am

    Re:

    All police do is LIE, LIE, LIE. You would be wise to record them to protect yourself as they will screw you over if need be.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2019 @ 8:07am

    Don't buy RING!!! Look at the EUFY Video Doorbell. It's lower cost and has its own onboard storage. What does that mean? NO SUBSCRIPTION FEES!!!

    So the 3 positives flat out are

    1 Cheaper

    2 No Subscription Fees

    3 No Police spying.

    From the reviews I've watch comparing the 2, The EUFY works much better to notify you and quicker for you to respond to someone pushing the doorbell and seeing them. Overall the software works better than Ring's!!! So if you are looking for a Doorbell, this looks like the one to get.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.