If you’re walking in Bloomfield, New Jersey, there’s a good chance you’re being recorded. But it’s not a corporate office or warehouse security camera capturing the footage — it’s likely a Ring doorbell made by Amazon.
While residential neighborhoods aren’t usually lined with security cameras, the smart doorbell’s popularity has essentially created private surveillance networks powered by Amazon and promoted by police departments.
Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products. While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested.
Ring said Tuesday that it would start cracking down on those strings attached.
“Ring customers are in control of their videos, when they decide to share them and whether or not they want to purchase a recording plan. Ring has donated devices to Neighbor’s Law Enforcement partners for them to provide to members of their communities,” Ring said in a statement. “Ring does not support programs that require recipients to subscribe to a recording plan or that footage from Ring devices be shared as a condition for receiving a donated device. We are actively working with partners to ensure this is reflected in their programs.”
While more surveillance footage in neighborhoods could help police investigate crimes, the sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants. You might recognize Amazon as a place to get cheap deals with one-day shipping, but critics have pointed out the retail giant’s ventures with law enforcement, like offering facial recognition tools.
Every area of town we have, there are some Ring cameras.
But those cameras benefit several groups: Police can gather more video footage, while Amazon can charge new Ring owners up to $3 a month for subscription fees on the smart doorbells. Residents, meanwhile, get some peace of mind, particularly with the Neighbors app, essentially a social network sharing camera feeds.
“Our township is now entirely covered by cameras,” said Captain Vincent Kerney, detective bureau commander of the Bloomfield Police Department. “Every area of town we have, there are some Ring cameras.”
Bloomfield’s police department did not receive any free cameras from Ring, but the camera was already popular in the town of roughly 50,000 people.
More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don’t have cameras — on suburban doorsteps…….Read More>>