Amazon’s helping police build a surveillance network with Ring doorbells

Its popular Ring smart doorbells mean more cameras on more doorsteps, where surveillance footage used to be rare.

If you’re walking in Bloomfield, New Jersey, there’s a good chance you’re being recorded. But it’s not a corporate office or warehouse security camera capturing the footage — it’s likely a Ring doorbell made by Amazon.

While residential neighborhoods aren’t usually lined with security cameras, the smart doorbell’s popularity has essentially created private surveillance networks powered by Amazon and promoted by police departments.

Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products. While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested.

Ring said it would start cracking down on those strings attached.

While more surveillance footage in neighborhoods could help police investigate crimes, the sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants. You might recognize Amazon as a place to get cheap deals with one-day shipping, but critics have pointed out the retail giant’s ventures with law enforcement, like offering ifacial recognition tools.

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