More than 600 police forces across the country have entered into partnerships with the camera giant allowing them to quickly request and download video captured by Ring’s motion-detecting, internet-connected cameras inside and around Americans’ homes.
The company says the videos can be a critical tool in helping law enforcement investigate crimes such as trespassing, burglary and package theft. But some lawmakers and privacy advocates say the systems could also empower more widespread police surveillance, fuel racial profiling and spark new neighborhood fears.
In September, following a report about Ring’s police partnerships in The Washington Post, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., wrote to Amazon asking for details about how it protected the privacy and civil liberties of people caught on camera. Since that report, the number of law enforcement agencies working with Ring has increased nearly 50%.
In two responses from Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, the company said it placed few restrictions on how police used or shared the videos offered up by homeowners. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
Police in those communities can use Ring software to request up to 12 hours of video from anyone within half a square mile of a suspected crime scene, covering a 45-day time span, Huseman said. Police are required to include a case number for the crime they are investigating, but not any other details or evidence related to the crime or their request.
Markey said in a statement that Ring’s policies showed the company had failed to enact basic safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy.
“Connected doorbells are well on their way to becoming a mainstay of American households, and the lack of privacy and civil rights protections for innocent residents is nothing short of chilling,” he said.
“If you’re an adult walking your dog or a child playing on the sidewalk, you shouldn’t have to worry that Ring’s products are amassing footage of you and that law enforcement may hold that footage indefinitely or share that footage with any third parties.”
Ring, which Amazon bought last year for more than $800 million, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.