Ring, a company owned by the behemoth Amazon, produces surveillance security products including outdoor motion-detecting cameras installed on people’s homes, as well as Ring Video Doorbell, and an app dubbed Neighbors, that allows online sharing of captured videos among users.
In the past, groups have spoken about a number of privacy and civil liberty issues that might suffer as a consequence of using this technology, including, among many others, that Ring is hosted in the cloud and therefore is not private, as users are not the only ones who can access their own footage.
We also learned that law enforcement is among those who have this access. Through partnerships, Ring has made it easier for over 1,000 local police departments across the US to ask for footage without a warrant, or oversight.
In addition, a network of Ring cameras installed in neighborhoods provides the police with a cheap, easy, and under-the-radar way of implementing mass surveillance among the willing, or at least insufficiently well-informed subjects.
And now we’re hearing that the police in Jackson, Mississippi are launching a 45-day pilot project that would see Amazon Ring customers live stream footage from their homes straight to a Real Time Crime Center operated by the local law enforcement.
This will be complete surveillance of everything happening at people’s front door, their everyday activities such as leaving and returning home, but also those of their neighbors walking their dogs or taking out the trash. This means that even those opting out of living under this kind of invasive, around-the-clock-police microscope won’t really be able to escape it if their neighbors’s Ring camera points in their direction.
This goes against Jackson’s previous record on privacy and surveillance, since it recently became the first southern US town to ban face recognition tech for police purposes.
The recommendation here is that if a surveillance camera network is to be built in a neighborhood, it must rest on consent and transparency, i.e., on residents having a clear option to opt out, instead of “opting” in by default.