Some Police Departments Can Now Monitor Neighborhoods Through Amazon’s Ring Doorbells

Photo Credit: Amazon

Amazon’s home security company, Ring, makes video doorbells that allow homeowners to answer the door from anywhere using their smartphone. In what some are calling an invasion of privacy, Amazon is now collaborating with law enforcement agencies to give them access to the video streams from Ring doorbells — though only in certain regions.

Amazon named 405 different law enforcement agencies currently working with Ring. Police can submit a request for a video recording of an incident from a Ring doorbell through Amazon’s neighborhood watch app, Neighbors Portal. Authorities can also view and comment on public posts on the app, where users are encouraged to share “tips” about criminal activity in their neighborhoods.

Giving access to these video streams will help police “make decisions about how to deploy emergency personnel,” Lifehacker reports.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Ring says it doesn’t provide personal information about its customers to the police without consent. When police request access to video footage, they don’t know where the request goes until the user chooses to share the video.

The company’s collaboration with the police doesn’t end there. Amazon has also pursued access to real-time emergency dispatch data to help push out alerts about crime activity. This data includes personally identifiable information, such as names and even precise GPS information.

So, how do you find out if this is happening in your city? Amazon posted an interactive map of all the law enforcement agencies they’re currently involved with. They include police departments in Miami, Phoenix, Houston, Denver and Detroit.

Photo Credit: Amazon

If you’re curious how ring works, check out this video:

I can see the appeal of giving law enforcement access to this data, I really can – but with all the data breaches and secret government surveillance programs we’ve dealt with, can we honestly say it’s a good idea for a private company to be helping law enforcement get video of what happens on our own doorsteps?

It seems like a short hop to panopticon.