September 4, 2019
More than 400 police agencies nationwide are working with the Amazon-owned Ring home surveillance system to track unlawful activities at our doorsteps and in our neighborhoods—and now you can check to see if your local department is one of them.
Ring disclosed the number today on August 28, according to the news outlet Quartz—and, at 400, it’s double what reports had previously revealed.
The security company also published an interactive map that shows which police departments can see all the Ring cameras in a given neighborhood, and can seamlessly request the footage from those cameras,
The map also provides information on when each department started working with Ring, along with a blog post about the Ring-law enforcement partnership. The company will be updating the map as new departments are added, it says.
The release coincided with an in-depth story by The Washington Post, which disclosed the full number of agencies for the first time. According to the report by the Post, “The number of police deals, which has not previously been reported, is likely to fuel broader questions about privacy, surveillance and the expanding reach of tech giants and local police. The rapid growth of the program, which began in spring 2018, surprised some civil liberties advocates, who thought that fewer than 300 agencies had signed on.”
The Ring system includes its surveillance cameras (most famously the motion-activated camera doorbells) as well as the Neighbors app (where people can share footage from their cameras and discuss crime in their areas) and the Neighborhood Portal (where police can see a map of Ring cameras and quickly submit a request for footage during an investigation).
In recent months, Vice, CNET, and Gizmodo have reported on U.S. law enforcemnt’s close relationship with the company—which, for example, gives departments discounts or free cameras to distribute among local residents. In some cases, police have used the giveaways as leverage to demand that people hand over their footage, although Ring says it is supposed to be voluntary.
Ring added: “Videos are shared through the Neighbors program only if: 1) a customer chooses to post it publicly on the Neighbors app; 2) explicit consent is provided by the customer. Law enforcement agencies who participate in the Neighbors app must go through the Ring team when making a video request to customers. Customers can choose to opt out or decline any request, and law enforcement agencies have no visibility into which customers have received a request and which have opted out or declined.”
Research contact: @ring