Amazon's Ring video intercom was used by U.S. police to obtain footage without the consent of the owners. The company's version and privacy concerns. All the details
Has Amazon violated privacy with its Ring video door phone? The company obviously says no, but some US Democrats disagree and say they are worried. In 2022, in fact, according to reports from the company itself, eleven times the videos of what was happening outside the home of the owner of the video intercom were provided to the police, without the user's consent. THE ACCUSATION OF THE DEMOCRATS Democratic Senator Edward Markey, who deals with privacy, has asked for clarification on the matter and yesterday published Amazon's letter of response, which admitted to having provided law enforcement eleven times with some footage obtained through Ring video door phones installed in private homes. WHAT AMAZON SAID IN ITS EXONERATION All this – which took place without the consent of the owners despite the fact that the company had previously declared that it would do so only in case of authorization – for Amazon happened in emergency circumstances and in compliance with the law. "The law authorizes companies like Ring to provide information to government agencies if they believe an emergency could result in danger of death or serious bodily injury to a person, such as in the case of kidnapping or attempted murder," the company said in a statement quoted by Reuters. "Ring decided in good faith that there was an imminent danger that required disclosure of information without delay," said Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy. Amazon, however, did not specify which videos had been shared with the police. WHAT AMAZON DIDN'T SAY Huseman, however, reports the news agency, did not want to specify when the Ring technology can capture audio (which can be turned off if desired) and how sensitive the recordings are. In addition, end-to-end encryption, available although it disables some features, is not a default option for Ring data. THE NEIGHBORS SERVICE... Amazon also said 2,161 law enforcement officers are enrolled in the Public Safety app Neighbors, which allows police and others to ask Ring's owners for footage. According to Markey, the number has quintupled since November 2019, and "the growing reliance of law enforcement on private surveillance creates a crisis of accountability." "As my ongoing investigation of Amazon shows, it has become increasingly difficult for citizens to move, gather and converse in public without being tracked and recorded." ... AND BIOMETRIC DATA The senator also said he was concerned that Amazon and other tech companies would start using biometric data in their systems and noted that he and other colleagues have filed a bill aimed at restricting law enforcement's access to that information. THE CONSEQUENCES The fact is bound to raise additional privacy and civil liberties concerns regarding video-sharing agreements with U.S. police departments. Previous requests from law enforcement, the Guardian notes, have raised concerns about how police might attempt to use this footage. Last year, the nonprofit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that the Los Angeles Police Department requested Ring's videos during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.