Ring, a home security camera company owned by Amazon, said it would stop allowing police departments to request user footage on its app amid long-standing concerns from privacy advocates about the relationship of the company with the authorities.
Eric Kuhn, General Manager of Ring Neighbors App Software and Subscriptions, announced on Wednesday that the company was shutting down a feature that allowed police to request and receive videos from users of the app, a social platform similar to Nextdoor and Citizen where people can share alerts about crimes near their home.
Kuhn did not say why Ring was removing the app’s feature, which allowed police to ask the public for help with active investigations in a special category of posts called “Request for Assistance.”
People could respond to posts by sending police videos that may be relevant to an investigation without police needing to seek a warrant.
The “Assistance Request” feature was introduced in June 2021 to provide users with more information about how local authorities used Ring to collect information.
People can also opt out of receiving those types of posts in the app. Before, police were able to send private requests by email for images to Ring users in an area of interest, not just people who used the Neighbors app.
Police and fire departments will still be able to post on Neighbors to share safety tips, updates and community events, Kuhn said. People don’t need a Ring device to use the app.
Privacy advocates criticized Ring for its partnerships with police and said easy-to-install home security cameras exacerbate racial discrimination.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, welcomed the change in Ring in a declaration but said the massive proliferation of doorbell cameras still threatened people’s rights.
“This is a victory in a long fight, not only against widespread policing, but also against a culture in which private for-profit companies create special tools to allow law enforcement to more easily access users of companies and their data – all of which ultimately undermines the trust of their customers,” the statement said.
On the Ring websiteThe company said law enforcement agencies cannot use the Neighbors app to access or monitor people’s Ring cameras or view recordings that have not been posted to the app.
The website includes a map of fire and police departments that use the app. These agencies have used Neighbors to provide updates on road closures and police activity, as well as share safety tips, such as reminders to lock car doors at night, and information about upcoming events, such as virtual town halls.
Amazon acquired Ring in 2018. In a letter made public According to Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts in 2022, Amazon said more than 2,100 law enforcement agencies participated in the Neighbors app.
In the letterAmazon vice president of public policy Brian Huseman also said Amazon had shared Ring footage with authorities 11 times in 2022 through a process that does not require user consent.
“In each case, Ring made a good faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person that required disclosure of information without delay,” Huseman said.
Last year, Amazon agreed to pay $5.8 million after the Federal Trade Commission said Ring had allowed its employees and contractors to access private videos and failed to implement security measures to protect customers from online threats such as hackers. computer hackers who violated the cameras. Ring disputed those claims in a May 2023 statement announcing the agreement.