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Amazon-Owned Doorbell-Camera Company Partners With 400 Police Forces

Say Contributor

Ring, the popular internet-connected private security company owned by Amazon, has partnered with 400 police departments across the country. Privacy advocates have some concerns about this. Ring-A-Ding As reported by The Washington Post, the partnership allows law enforcement to request video recorded by homeowner’s cameras during a specific time period. Officers do not have access to the live video as it is happening, and home owners are allowed to decline the request. Ring users are alerted when their doorbell chimes or their camera detects motion, and they can view the live feed on their mobile app, and share the video with Ring’s social network Neighbors. Camera Ready Ring was trying to keep details of its police-partnership program confidential, but public records eventually began to make the details of the arrangement clear. Police officers can chat with users on Neighborhood (who have the option to remain anonymous) and can request access to videos that have not been publicly shared. Officers have said this can help them with leads, but privacy advocates worry this partnership could turn police officers into salespeople for surveillance-systems and increase community paranoia. Critics have also pointed out the technology’s potential for racial profiling, referring to one widely-viewed video of two African-American children with the title “Early trick or treat, or are they up to no good?” Private Lives Ring was started in 2013, and purchased by Amazon in 2018, which already has plenty of experience being criticized for its surveillance technology. Amazon's Rekognition technology, which can now apparently detect fear, has been used by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to comb through driver's license photo databases without motorists’ knowledge, and recent attempt to test out Rekognition's real time usefulness to police didn’t go so well. At least 25 prominent artificial-intelligence researchers, including experts at Google, Facebook and Microsoft, have called on Amazon to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement, and Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has pledged to ban the technology outright if elected. Recognize So far, Amazon seems nonplussed by the criticism. Last May, Amazon shareholders rejected proposals to both stop selling Rekognition to government agencies and to investigate the extent to which it violated privacy, though the company has said it would be okay with some government regulation of the technology. -Michael Tedder Photo: Ring.com