A deal with Amazon lets local police request Ring footage without a warrant

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What you need to know

  • Amazon has partnered with some local police departments to push Ring products.
  • In return for promoting Ring, Police departments get free doorbells for residents.
  • Police can also access a special portal for requesting footage without a warrant.

Ring, the Amazon-owned company behind some of the most popular smart video doorbells, has come under fire once again for privacy concerns. This time around, a report from Vice reveals that Amazon’s been partnering with local police departments around the country in an effort to get officers to promote Ring products to citizens.

In return for this promotion, police departments have been receiving free Ring products for residents of their areas and access to Ring’s Law Enforcement Portal — something that allows officers to request access to footage from Ring cameras without the need for a warrant.

While it’s been known that Ring was partnering with police departments, Vice‘s report offers a lot more insight into how this partnership works thanks to a leaked agreement between Ring and a police department in Lakeland, Florida. In the contract signed between both parties, it notes that the department is:

[Required to] engage the Lakeland community with outreach efforts on the platform to encourage adoption of the platform/app.

A big part of the agreement revolves around officers encouraging people to download Ring’s “Neighbors” app. For every person in the area that downloads Neighbors, departments are given a $10 credit that can be used towards buying a Ring Video Doorbell. As a catalyst for the program, Ring gives each department 15 free video doorbells to get started.

However, that’s not even the dirtiest part of the whole thing.

In addition to free doorbells, police departments are also given access to the Ring Law Enforcement Portal. This is a free service exclusively for law enforcement, and according to Ring, gives police all of the following:

  • Access to the videos and crime/safety related posts on the Neighbors app.
  • Ability to post geographically specific, hyper-local alerts to Ring owners and users of the app.
  • A map of Ring devices in your community (exact locations obscured for privacy).
  • Ability to request videos directly from Ring users.
  • Management of videos shared by users.

The part about officers being able to request videos from Ring users is especially concerning, considering the fact that this can be done without the need for any kind of warrant.

In response to this, a Ring spokesperson said:

Through these partnerships, we are opening up the lines of communication between community members and local law enforcement and providing app users with important crime and safety information directly from the official source. We’ve seen many positive examples of Neighbors users and law enforcement engaging on the app and believe open communication is an important step in building safer, stronger communities.

If you recall, this isn’t the first time Ring’s come under fire for its handling of user privacy. Back in January, it was reported that some Ring employees at a research center in Ukraine were able to access video footage of Ring cameras and doorbells with nothing more than a user’s email address.

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