San Francisco – Research by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) shows that hundreds of U.S. police departments with deadly histories have official partnerships with Amazon’s Ring—a home-surveillance company that makes it easy to send video footage to law enforcement.
Ring sells networked cameras, often bundled with doorbells or lighting, that record video when they register movement and then send notifications to owners’ cell phones. Ring’s partnerships allow police to seek access to private video footage directly from residents through a special web portal. Ring now works with over 1400 agencies, adding 600 in the last six months alone. An analysis of data from Ring, Fatal Encounters, and Mapping Police Violence shows that roughly half of the agencies that Ring has partnered with had fatal encounters in the last five years. In fact, those departments have been responsible for over a third of fatal police encounters nationwide, including the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Antonio Valenzuela, Michael Ramos, and Sean Monterrosa.
“At a time when communities are more concerned than ever before about their relationship with law enforcement, these partnerships encourage an atmosphere of mistrust and could allow for near-constant surveillance by local police,” said EFF Digital Strategist Jason Kelley. “These partnerships make it all too easy for law enforcement to harass, arrest, or detain someone who is simply exercising their legal rights to free expression—for example, by walking through a neighborhood, protesting in their local community, or canvassing for a political campaign.”
Recently, Nextdoor’s Forward to Police feature, which allows users to share their posts or urgent alerts directly with law enforcement, was ended as part of the company’s “anti-racism” work. EFF calls on Ring to do the same by ending their partnerships with law enforcement agencies.
“People across the nation are calling for policing reform,” said Kelley. “Amazon has acknowledged this important movement, and stopped selling its face recognition tool called Rekognition to police for one year. But that concession means nothing to the public if the company continues to expedite police access to home surveillance footage through Ring.”
For the full report:
For EFF’s petition to Amazon: