According to emails and notes obtained by Motherboard, Amazon’s home security company Ring has previously partnered with at least 200 US law enforcement agencies as of April 2019. This suggests that the scope of Ring’s ties to law enforcement and the level of access law enforcement has to videos recorded by Ring products is much larger than previously reported.
The report is based on emails obtained by Motherboard and comments from a police officer who sent one of the emails. The report suggests that:
- Ring has partnered with at least 200 law enforcement agencies
- Ring representatives run webinars which shows officers how to use the “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal” – a portal which gives local police access to a map showing the approximate locations of all Ring cameras in a neighborhood and allows them to request surveillance footage from camera owners (these requests are facilitated by Ring)
- Police officers can request surveillance footage from Ring camera owners without a warrant and obtain the footage without a warrant if the camera owner consents (these requests are facilitated by Ring)
- Law enforcement agencies are offered a certain number of free user profiles on this “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal” and it has three levels (the email obtained by Motherboard says “75 user profiles for free”)
Motherboard says these partnerships with law enforcement agencies usually involve Ring giving police departments free doorbell cameras and access to the “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal.” Some of the partnerships also reportedly require police departments to promote Ring’s products to their local community and give these departments credit towards free Ring cameras when local residents download the Ring app.
For Ring, the partnerships generate more users of its products and apps, provide more opportunities to sell its premium Ring Protect subscription service, and result in more photos, videos, and data being shared in the Neighbors by Ring app – a public neighborhood security app.
For law enforcement agencies, the partnerships increase the number of cameras in the “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal” network which then allows officers to request surveillance footage from a larger network of cameras. These partnerships also indirectly give officers access to more public data via the Neighbors by Ring app.
Overall, the partnerships create an ever-increasing corporate surveillance network which can easily be tapped into by a large number of law enforcement agencies.
This report from Motherboard follows previous reporting about similar partnerships between Ring and police departments which show how Ring is creating towns where virtually all public areas are surveilled.
It also comes after people have raised concerns over the way Amazon often heavily discounts Ring products to proliferate their use. In addition to this, Amazon has suggested that it will start producing local crime news updates for Ring customers – a move that critics have suggested will prey on people’s fear of crime.
Update: July 30, 2019 – Added clarification that Ring facilitates law enforcement requests for surveillance footage.