While people purchase Ring cameras on Amazon and mount them on their front doors to keep their homes safe, law enforcement agencies use them without the user's permission, according to a press release published by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts).
The heading of the press release reads, "Senator Markey's Probe Into Amazon Ring Reveals New Privacy Problem," highlighting the alarming access to "the close relationship between Ring and law enforcement, including the proliferation of policing agencies on the Ring platform."
Ring, which Amazon bought in 2018, responded to Markey's June letter and said law enforcement partnerships on its platform had jumped a staggering five-fold increase since November 2019. The electronic doorbell company further revealed footage was handed over to police eleven times this year without the user's consent – under a so-called "emergency circumstance exception."
"As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded," Markey said.
Amazon has an agreement with more than 2,100 police departments nationwide under the app called "Neighbors." Police can use the app to request videos. The lawmaker warned:
"We cannot accept this as inevitable in our country. Increasing law enforcement reliance on private surveillance creates a crisis of accountability, and I am particularly concerned that biometric surveillance could become central to the growing web of surveillance systems that Amazon and other powerful tech companies are responsible for."
Lawmakers have previously said Amazon funded a lobbying campaign to relax privacy protections in more than two dozen states while harvesting vast amounts of sensitive data on its customers.
"Amazon shamefully launched a campaign to squash privacy legislation while its devices listen to & watch our lives. This is now the classic Big Tech move: deploy money & armies of lobbyists to fight meaningful reforms in the shadows but claim to support them publicly," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) tweeted late last year.
Politico pointed out Congress is discussing a federal data privacy law, though it won't cover Ring sharing data with police.
During the pandemic, Ring conducted a 45-day pilot program to live stream Ring cameras in Jackson, Mississippi, to test a surveillance camera network from people's homes.
Ring effectively creates the most extensive corporate-owned, civilian-installed surveillance network the US has ever seen. This is very troubling.