Amazon is one of those companies that has silently, stealthily, entered our lives on a major level. A level that had Microsoft or Google asked for comparable access we would scoff and scream privacy invasion. One such way Amazon has entered our lives is via their popular door bell service, Ring. With the launch of Ring’s Neighborhoods social network, partnered police departments can request footage from participating Ring owners. What they can do with that footage is the concerning part here.
The beginnings of 1984
If you are not familiar with the book 1984 then definitely get a copy and read it. For everyone else, here we go.
Ring by Amazon is a doorbell service that can record footage of anything in the view of the camera. This is accomplished via motion detection hardware. On the surface this is a great option for people wanting a little more security for their home.
As in 1984 though, government is involved in these things and it is not always used in a safe and proper manner for the citizens.
Concerns begin rumbling
According to The Washington Post, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) contacted Amazon for details on privacy and civil liberties protections for persons caught on Ring footage.
Now, keep in mind, depending on where the Ring doorbell is installed, it could be capturing footage of people walking their dog, a public area near a home, etc. While we are not guaranteed privacy while in public, we do expect at least a modicum of it.
Amazon’s response is chilling
Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy simply stated that the company, Amazon, puts very few restrictions on the police department requesting the footage. This includes how the police department used the footage or whom they share it with.
That is ominous if you are a privacy concerned citizen.
The slope continues to get slippery
Allegedly, the participating police departments can request up to 12 hours of video footage from any Ring doorbell within a half square mile area of a suspected crime.
Oh, it gets better.
The time frame can be as far back as 45 days according to Huseman.
Those few restrictions on police
Apparently only a case number is required to get the footage. That is it.
This potentially leaves open requests involving a traffic stop or similar incident for police to request footage from Ring doorbells in an area. There is no requirement on the police to prove any need to have that footage such as connecting it to a crime in the area. Just a case number.
What can you do to combat this?
Well, for one, don’t use Ring doorbells. Don’t use any service like Ring that has control over your footage and can do as they wish with it.
If you are a security minded individual then maybe investigate the many free, and paid, options to use old cell phones for security cameras. Many of these services have very clear privacy rights details available which may require police to get a warrant to view footage from your camera. Other services allow you to be the only one retaining the footage locally, if you have the hardware to do so (most of us do not).