San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has obtained emails that show that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) sent at least one request—and likely many more—for Amazon Ring camera video of last summer’s Black-led protests against police violence. In a report released today, EFF shows that the LAPD asked for video related to “the recent protests,” and refused to disclose to EFF what crime it was investigating or how many hours of footage it ultimately requested.
“The emails we received raise many questions about what the LAPD wanted to do with this video,” said EFF Policy Analyst Matthew Guariglia. “Police could have gathered hours of footage of people engaged in First-Amendment-protected activity, with a vague hope that they could find evidence of something illegal. LAPD should tell the public how many hours of surveillance footage it gathered around these protests, and why.”
EFF filed its public records request with LAPD after widespread complaints about police tactics during the protests in May and June of 2020. After receiving the emails in response to our request, we asked for clarification from the LAPD about what it was looking for and how much video it wanted. The agency said simply that it was attempting to “identify those involved in criminal behavior.”
“Outdoor surveillance cameras like Ring have the potential to provide the police with video footage covering every inch of an entire neighborhood. This poses an incredible risk to First Amendment rights,” said Guariglia. “People are less likely to exercise their right to political speech, protest, and assembly if they know that police can get video of these actions with just an email to people with Ring cameras.”
Los Angeles isn’t the only city where the police department tried to get video of last summer’s protests for racial justice. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) used a network of over 400 cameras operated by a business district to spy on protests in early June 2020, under the guise of public safety. Last fall, EFF and ACLU of Northern California filed a lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco on behalf of three protesters, asking the court to require the city to follow its Surveillance Technology Ordinance and prohibit the SFPD from acquiring, borrowing, or using non-city networks of surveillance cameras absent prior approval from the city’s Board of Supervisors.
For the full report “LAPD Requested Ring Footage of Black Lives Matter Protests”: