Civil rights groups call on lawmakers to cut partnerships between Amazon doorbell, police

Civil rights groups call on lawmakers to cut partnerships between Amazon doorbell, police
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A group of more than 30 civil rights groups on Tuesday signed an open letter calling on lawmakers to cut partnerships between Amazon's Ring doorbell surveillance systems and local police.

The letter raised concerns about the video feed recorded by the doorbell and its camera being used by law enforcement for unwarranted surveillance and facial recognition searches, which opponents say can exacerbate racial discrimination.

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The letter followed an August Washington Post report which found Ring partnered with more than 400 local police forces to give law enforcement access to homeowners' footage.

"These partnerships pose a serious threat to civil rights and liberties, especially for black and brown communities already targeted and surveilled by law enforcement," the letter reads.

The groups — including RAICES, the Center for Human Rights and Privacy as well as the Color of Change — are demanding that local, state and federal lawmakers begin to regulate the rapidly growing surveillance network to curb law enforcement's access to users' cameras.

“With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely,” they wrote.

“In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies like ICE or the FBI,” the letter reads.

A spokesperson for Ring said that the claims in the letter are inaccurate, arguing that users' privacy is not being violated.

"Ring’s mission is to help make neighborhoods safer. We work towards this mission in a number of ways, including providing a free tool that can help build stronger relationships between communities and their local law enforcement agencies," they said in a statement to The Hill.

"All content submitted to our app is reviewed to ensure that it adheres to our community guidelines, including our policies against racial profiling and prohibiting hate speech or other forms of prejudice before it goes live on the platform."

This report was updated at 3:05 pm