Amazon gave Ring videos to police without permission from owners

It’s a data point that will likely only escalate congressional scrutiny of the tech giant, which lawmakers have already blamed on its privacy practices, after its facial recognition service Rekognition falsely linked 28 members of Congress to criminal snaps in 2018 and how its Echo Dot Kids Edition protected children’s privacy.

The company also faces antitrust concerns over its dominance in online retail and its treatment of third-party sellers who use its platform.

Doorbells, in particular, raise privacy concerns due to their popularity, Amazon’s deals with law enforcement, and Amazon’s growing technological capabilities. In 2020, Ring responded to a letter from five senators and revealed that four employees improperly accessed Ring’s video data.

Amazon currently has agreements for let 2,161 police departments across the country use an app called Neighbors where users post Ring camera footage and leave comments. Police can use the app to send alerts and request videos.

Amazon said in the letter that it shares images with police without a warrant in emergency circumstances involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury. The company said it decides whether requests meet its standards for urgency.

“It is simply untrue for Ring to give anyone unrestricted access to customer data or video,” Ring said in a statement after the article was published, noting that it provides such access to police when it believes that there is “a danger of death or serious physical injury to any person, such as kidnapping or attempted murder.

Ring spokesman Brendan Daley also said the company also does not require consent when sharing images with police with warrants, although it does notify owners.

Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote in the letter to Markey that each of the 11 times he shared a video without the device owner’s consent, it was because “Ring determined in good faith that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person requiring the disclosure of information without delay”.

Amazon did not provide any details on when or where these 11 incidents took place.

Amazon’s agreements with law enforcement allow officers to request Ring doorbell images for entire neighborhoods. When a request is sent to a specified geographic area, Ring owners receive a notification asking them to upload recordings from a specified time period for police to view. The doorbells can be activated by motion detection and can pick up sound up to 30 feet away, according to a Consumer Reports test, making them useful for law enforcement.

In 2021, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that Los Angeles police requested footage from Ring recording Black Lives Matter protests.

“As my ongoing investigation of Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move around, congregate and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,” Markey said in a statement.

As Congress mulls a federal data privacy law, the proposed bill would not cover Ring’s sharing of data with law enforcement, as it allows for exceptions in cases where a company must comply with law enforcement agencies. order.

Markey’s office criticized Amazon for not eliminating automatic audio recording by default and argued that Ring should rule out the use of voice recognition or facial recognition for its products.

The company told lawmakers, according to the letter, that Ring customers “expect and value audio functionality.”

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