Amazon-owned doorbell-camera manufacturer Ring has formed partnerships with hundreds of police departments that allow them to request access to footage within a specific time period after an incident has occured, according to a report in The Washington Post.
Ring has arrangements with more than 400 departments, under which they can request recordings within a specific time and area, according to the Post. Ring gives homeowners the option to decline requests, according to the Post.
Police can use a map interface to select the time and geographic range, which will generate an automated email to all users within the range with a message from the department, according to the newspaper.
The program began in spring of 2018, but its extent was previously unknown, with some civil libertarians initially believing under 300 forces were participating, according to the newspaper.
“The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer,” Eric Kuhn, the general manager of Neighbors, Ring’s crime-focused companion app, told the Post. “We’ve had a lot of success in terms of deterring crime and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly.”
However, privacy advocates told the Post the program has worrisome implications and could potentially be weaponized by allowing users to flag innocent people as “suspicious.”
“If the police demanded every citizen put a camera at their door and give officers access to it, we might all recoil,” law professor Andrew Ferguson told the newspaper.
Ring, as a private-sector enterprise, has found “a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government,” he added.
The company told the Post it would not provide user recordings if subpoenaed, telling the newspaper “Ring does not disclose customer information in response to government demands unless we’re required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order.”
Updated at 1:00 p.m.