Ring to stop police from requesting video from security cameras

Ring, a home security camera company owned by Amazon, said it will no longer allow police departments to request footage of users in its app, amid long-standing concerns from privacy advocates about the company’s relationship with police.

This was announced by Eric Kuhn, general manager of subscriptions and software for the Ring Neighbors app on Wednesday that the company was shutting down a feature that allowed police to request and receive videos from users of the app, a social platform similar to Nextdoor and Citizen where people can share alerts about crimes near their homes.

Mr. Kuhn did not say why Ring was eliminating the app’s functionality, which allowed police to ask the public for help with active investigations in a special category of posts called “Request for Assistance.”

People could respond to posts by sending police videos that might be relevant to an investigation without police having to seek a warrant.

The “Request for Assistance” functionality has been introduced. June 2021 to provide users with more information about how local law enforcement was using Ring to gather intelligence.

People may also choose not to receive these types of posts on the app. Before, the police were able to send requests via private emails for shooting Ring users in an area of ​​interest, not just people who used the Neighbors app.

Police and fire departments will still be able to post publicly on Neighbors to share safety tips, updates and community events, Kuhn said. People don’t need a Ring device to use the app.

Privacy advocates have criticized Ring for its cooperation with police and said easy-to-install home security cameras exacerbate racial discrimination.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, celebrated the change at Ring in a declaration but he said the mass proliferation of doorbell cameras continues to threaten people’s rights.

“This is a victory in a long fight not only against widespread police surveillance, but also against a culture in which private, for-profit companies build special tools to allow law enforcement to more easily access users of companies and their data. which ultimately undermine the trust of their customers,” the statement said.

On the Ring websitethe company said law enforcement cannot use the Neighbors app to access or control people’s Ring cameras or view recordings that have not been posted to the app.

The website includes a map of the fire and police departments that use the app. These agencies have used Neighbors to provide updates on road closures and police activity, as well as share safety tips, such as reminders to lock car doors at night, and information about upcoming events, such as virtual town halls.

Amazon acquired Ring in 2018. In a letter made public by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts in 2022, Amazon said more than 2,100 law enforcement agencies have participated in the Neighbors app.

In the letterAmazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, also said that Amazon shared Ring footage with law enforcement 11 times in 2022 using a process that does not require user consent.

“In each case, Ring determined in good faith that there was imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to a person requiring disclosure of information without delay,” Mr. Huseman said.

Last year, Amazon agreed to pay $5.8 million after the Federal Trade Commission said Ring had allowed its employees and contractors to access private videos and had failed to implement security measures to protect customers from online threats, like hackers hacking cameras. Ring disputed those claims in a May 2023 statement announcing the agreement.