Chicago – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging Amazon, along with basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, to cancel an event promoting Ring home-surveillance cameras at a police chiefs’ conference in Chicago later this month. EFF and many other civil liberties and privacy organizations are growing increasingly concerned about privacy-invasive partnerships between Ring and law enforcement agencies across the country, which threaten the privacy of all of us as we walk and drive around our communities.
Ring, a subsidiary of Amazon, sells networked cameras—often bundled with doorbells or lighting—that record video when they register movement and then send notifications to users’ cell phones. While Ring pitches the technology as a way to make your home safer, more than 500 police departments across the country have partnered with Ring to create an omnipresent surveillance system gathering video of people going about their lives.
The exact contours of these partnerships are unclear, thanks to restrictive contracts from Ring. However, in-depth reporting from various news outlets have shown a number of worrisome arrangements. For example, police that partner with Ring reportedly have access to Ring’s “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal,” which allows police to request footage from specific users. And once Ring footage ends up with police, it's considered evidence and out of Ring’s control—the video could be shared beyond your local law enforcement and you would likely never know. Amazon also encourages police to recommend that residents install the Ring app and purchase cameras for their homes.
“These partnerships expand the web of government surveillance of public places,” said EFF Policy Analyst Matthew Guariglia. “While crime is down in most parts of the country, Ring breeds paranoia, creating a feeling of crime everywhere. There’s too little consideration for the safety and privacy of those on the other end of the camera—unsuspecting dog-walkers, delivery people, and others. You should think twice about any technology that facilitates the proliferation of police surveillance on the streets where we protest, canvas for political candidates, and move freely every day.”
O’Neal has been a spokesperson and co-owner of Ring since 2016. At last year’s conference for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Ring and O’Neal gave out tens of thousands of dollars in free Ring hardware to attendees, turning law enforcement officers into unofficial promoters for the technology. On October 27, O’Neal will host this year’s party at the IACP. Today, EFF has released a video imploring Ring and O’Neal to cancel the event and learn about the dangers of unaccountable surveillance.
“Ring’s law enforcement partnerships are endangering communities, encouraging an atmosphere of mistrust, and facilitating near-constant surveillance by local police,” said EFF Digital Strategist Jason Kelley. “We invite Shaq to talk to our experts instead of attending this ill-advised party.”
For more on Ring, Shaq, and surveillance: