When police partner with Ring, Amazon’s home surveillance camera company, they get access to the “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal,” an interactive map that allows officers to request footage directly from camera owners. Police don’t need a warrant to request this footage, but they do need permission from camera owners.
Emails and documents obtained by Motherboard reveal that people aren’t always willing to provide police with their Ring camera footage. However, Ring works with law enforcement and gives them advice on how to persuade people to give them footage.
Emails obtained from police department in Maywood, NJ—and emails from the police department of Bloomfield, NJ, which were also posted by Wired—show that Ring coaches police on how to obtain footage. The company provides cops with templates for requesting footage, which they do not need a court warrant to do. Ring suggests cops post often on Neighbors, Ring’s free “neighborhood watch” app, where Ring camera owners have the option of sharing their camera footage.
“I have noticed you have been posting alerts and receiving feedback from the community,” a Ring representative told Bloomfield police. “You are doing a great job interacting with them and that will be critical in increasing the opt-in rate.”
“The more users you have, the more useful the information you can collect,” the representative added.
“Seems like you wasted no time sending out your video Request out to Ring Users which is awesome!!” a Ring “Partner Success Associate” told Maywood police.
As reported by GovTech on Friday, police can request Ring camera footage directly from Amazon, even if a Ring customer denies to provide police with the footage. It’s a workaround that allows police to essentially “subpoena” anything captured on Ring cameras.
“Ring will not release customer information in response to government demands without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” a Ring spokesperson told Motherboard in an email. “Ring objects to over-broad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course. We are working with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to ensure this is understood.”
Chris Gilliard, a professor of English at Macomb Community College who studies digital redlining and discriminatory practices enabled by data mining, said in a phone call that Amazon is essentially coaching police on 1) how to do their jobs, and 2) how to promote Ring products.
“Not coincidentally, those things overlapped quite a bit,” Gilliard said. “That’s really disturbing.”
Ring, in essence, recommends that police create a feedback loop in which they depend on Ring. According to Ring, police should:
- Post on their department’s Twitter and Facebook pages to encourage Neighbors downloads.
- Use Neighbors downloads as “credits” to get free Ring cameras.
- Increase the amount of video surveillance in their communities.
- Use the Law Enforcement Neighborhoods Portal to request surveillance footage.
Motherboard previously reported that at least 200 law enforcement agencies have partnered with Ring. Gizmodo reported that the number of partnerships is at least 225.
AMAZON finally gave its Alexa users the option to block recordings of them having sex.
It came after we revealed last week that staff have regularly listened in when smart speakers pick up private conversations and other, saucier activities.
Amazon is now updating the settings to let users opt out.
Each time the intelligent assistant hears the wake-up phrase “Alexa” — or thinks it has — it records what it hears.
Employees listen to some recordings to work out why Alexa gets requests wrong or is wrongly activated.
Apple and Google had already suspended the practice of humans reviewing recordings.
Amazon has not gone that far but insisted: “We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures.