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USA: Civil society groups allege Amazon Ring's partnerships with police threaten privacy & civil liberties; Ring responds

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29 October 2019

Open letter calling on elected officials to stop Amazon’s doorbell surveillance partnerships with police

Author: Fight for the Future, Mijente & 34 other civil rights groups

The Washington Post has reported that there are currently more than 400 police departments across the United States who have entered into surveillance partnerships with Amazon’s camera enabled doorbell company, Ring. These partnerships pose a serious threat to civil rights and liberties, especially for black and brown communities already targeted and surveilled by law enforcement... With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely... Amazon has not been transparent about plans to integrate facial recognition into Ring cameras... As facial recognition software has been shown to disproportionately misidentify people of color, women and transgender people, it further compounds existing civil liberties concerns and expands suspected criminality centered in racial profiling and gender bias... Given its significant risks, no surveillance partnerships with Amazon Ring should have been established, or should be established in the future, without substantial community engagement and input and elected official approval... [W]e call on mayors and city councils to require police departments to cancel any and all existing Amazon Ring partnerships, and to pass surveillance oversight ordinances that will deter police departments from entering into such agreements in the future.

Read the full post here

29 October 2019

Over 30 civil rights groups demand an end to Amazon Ring's police partnerships

Author: Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

Over 30 civil rights organizations have penned an open letter that calls on government officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and end the company’s numerous police partnerships. The letter follows a report by The Washington Post in August that detailed how more than 400 police forces across the U.S. have partnered with Ring to gain access to homeowners’ camera footage. These partnerships have already raised concerns with privacy advocates and civil liberties organizations, which claim the agreements turn neighbors into informants and subject innocent people to greater risk and surveillance... [B]y working with Ring, law enforcement gets to tap into a massive surveillance network without being directly involved in its creation.

... [T]he letter points out these police deals involve Amazon coaching cops on how to obtain surveillance footage without a warrant. It also notes that Ring allowed employees to share unencrypted customer videos with each other... “Amazon Ring’s customers provide the company with the footage needed to build their privately owned, nationwide surveillance dragnet. We’re the ones who pay the cost – as they violate our privacy rights and civil liberties,"... according to Evan Greer, deputy director at Fight for the Future.

Read the full post here

Company response
29 October 2019

Response from Ring

Author: ring

We appreciate the opportunity to engage further on these issues and provide clarity on how the Neighbors app works with local police. The letter referenced is based on a misinformed and incorrect understanding of Ring products and services. Ring's mission is to help make neighborhoods safer.. User privacy is our priority... a few of the safeguards we've implemented:

  • No access to devices. Local police are never given access to users’ cameras or devices through the Neighbors Portal or otherwise by Ring.
  • No direct access to users when local police ask residents for videos...
  • No user account information. Users are identified in Neighbors app posts/comments only as “Neighbor #”. Local police know only that the users reside within their jurisdiction, and they cannot see or access user account information without any particular user’s express consent.
  • No device location. The Neighbors Portal does not provide local police with the addresses at which any devices are located without a user’s express consent.

... All content submitted to our app is reviewed to ensure that it adheres to our community guidelines, including our policies against racial profiling and prohibiting hate speech or other forms of prejudice before it goes live on the app... You can also learn more about the Neighbors app here.

Download the full document here