Ring has been providing police with data on whether users agree to hand over footage to police, report says

  • Ring has provided police some data on footage requests says a new report
  • Emails show the company gave data on request numbers, success, and more  
  • Skeptics worry that the data will allow police to pursue warrants on Ring users 
  • The data also shows that many requests go ignored by users 

Amazon’s home security company, Ring, has been tracking whether or not users agree to hand over their video footage to police.

According to a report from Gizmodo, Ring — an Amazon-owned home security company — has kept partnering police departments abreast of whether or not users accepted or declined their requests for footage. 

Skeptics worry that the practice could put additional pressure on communities from police, spur unequal treatment of people in areas that are less willing to share their information, and potentially lead cops to issue them more warrants.  

Ring has shared data with police department regarding how many video requests were successful according to a recent report.

Ring has shared data with police department regarding how many video requests were successful according to a recent report.

‘Even if Amazon gives police stats about a community and their acquiescence rate to providing police footage, even if they don’t have your individual information, I think that still has the ability to tar a community as being uncooperative with police. And that could have ramifications’ Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Gizmodo. 

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Partnerships between law enforcement and Amazon usually involve the company providing its door-mounted compact security cameras to police who then distribute them to residents at a discount.

After they’re handed out, users can choose to download Ring’s Neighborhood app — a platform that enables them to share information with each other and, if desired, with police.

Inside this portal, police are allowed to request footage from users that they think could be useful in investigations. 

While Ring has been adamant that it does not share footage with police without users’ consent, recent revelations suggest the policy is somewhat gray area for the company.

Emails obtained by Gizmodo during a five month period in 2018 show that the company was willing to give law enforcement departments numerical data on how many requests were sent out, the number of videos provided, and whether those videos were unique or taken from a handful of users. 

Ring said in a statement that the emails and data described in the report do not reflect its current practices. 

‘When Neighbors first launched in the Ring app, initial video request data was analyzed in addition to getting feedback from a few early partners,’ a company spokesperson told Gizmodo. 

‘This is not representative of our current policies or the current video request process. Ring does not provide video request data to law enforcement agencies.’

Though none of the data cited by Gizmodo uniquely identifies any one user, previous reports show that municipalities and police departments have sometimes requested that the company share names and addresses of Ring users.

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Cities claim that police departments only request those customer lists to make sure that residents don’t reuse government provided discount codes according to a Motherboard report. 

Partnerships between Amazon and police departments are far more prolific than previously though according to a new report that details 400 collaborations across the U.S.

Partnerships between Amazon and police departments are far more prolific than previously though according to a new report that details 400 collaborations across the U.S. 

Critics of Ring have pointed out that access names and data about where cameras are or when video is shared would make it easy for police to pursue a warrant for obtaining footage not provided by customers.

‘There are a lot of blurry lines between voluntary cooperation and active solicitation,’ Chris Conley, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union told Gizmodo.

Data obtained by Gizmodo shows that in at least some locations, requests often come up empty handed. 

Emails show that 319 video requests sent out by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department only yielded 11 affirmative responses. 

More insight into Ring’s company practices come on the heels of a report from The Washington Post that revealed video-sharing programs between the Amazon-owned company, Ring now number 400 — nearly double previous estimates.

That figure, which the Post says was gleaned from Ring’s company data, marks the first ever hard number on Ring’s police partnerships which facilitate the exchange of user’s home video footage with local law enforcement.    

WHAT IS RING AND WHY DID AMAZON BUY IT?

Amazon acquired home security startup Ring for a reported £700 million ($1 billion).

The home security startup sells doorbells that capture video and audio.

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Clips can be streamed on smartphones and other devices, while the doorbell even allows homeowners to remotely chat to those standing at their door.

Ring sells doorbells (left) that capture video and audio. Clips can be streamed on smartphones and other devices, while the doorbell even allows homeowners to remotely chat to those standing at their door

Ring sells doorbells (left) that capture video and audio. Clips can be streamed on smartphones and other devices, while the doorbell even allows homeowners to remotely chat to those standing at their door

Ring promotes its gadgets as a way to catch package thieves, a nuisance that Amazon has been looking to remedy. 

Amazon late last year unveiled its own smart lock and camera combination called Amazon Key in a move into home security.

Key is designed to provide a secure and trackable way for packages to be delivered inside homes when people aren’t there.

Amazon has bought home security startup Ring for a reported £700 million ($1 billion)

Amazon has bought home security startup Ring for a reported £700 million ($1 billion)

Ring’s doorbell could work well with Amazon Key, which lets delivery personnel put packages inside a home to avoid theft or, in the case of fresh food, spoiling.

California-based Ring first caught the spotlight with a failed quest for funding about five years ago on reality television show Shark Tank.

Ring went on to win backing from the likes of billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.

 



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