House subcommittee requests information from Ring about cooperation with police, local governments

House subcommittee requests information from Ring about cooperation with police, local governments
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A House subcommittee is asking Amazon's home security outfit Ring for information about its partnerships with city governments and local police departments as well as its data protection policy.

Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiMilley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Democrats seek information on Treasury's administration of 'opportunity zone' program Biden campaign rips 'outrageous' Trump comments on coronavirus testing MORE (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, expressed concerns in a letter to Amazon about reports that Ring cooperates with the local entities to promote its surveillance tools and has agreements with some cities to provide discounts on their products to residents in exchange for city subsidies. He also said he was alarmed by reports that Ring “tightly controls” what is said about them in public and mandates prior approval of any statement. 

“The Subcommittee is seeking more information regarding why cities and law enforcement agencies enter into these agreements,” Krishnamoorthi wrote.  

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“The answer appears to be that Ring gives them access to a much wider system of surveillance than they could build themselves, and Ring allows law enforcement access to a network of surveillance cameras on private property without the expense to taxpayers of having to purchase, install, and monitor those cameras," he added.

Krishnamoorthi specifically cited a Vice report from August which said that cities and towns across the country are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize a discount for Ring’s products. He also cited a report from The Guardian saying Ring uses its partnerships to help shape the public narrative around the company.

Krishnamoorthi’s subcommittee is requesting Amazon hand over documents and information from Jan. 1, 2013, to the present regarding Ring’s cooperation with cities and local police departments.

The request is part of the subcommittee’s investigation into “traditional constitutional protections against surveilling Americans and the balancing of civil liberties and security interests,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Ring confirmed to The Hill that it is reviewing the letter and "[intends] to respond."

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Ring, which sells internet-connected home surveillance equipment such as doorbell cameras, has come under scrutiny over its privacy and security features. Multiple people have come forward saying their Ring cameras have been hacked in recent months, and the company was sued in December by a California man who said it had not taken proper steps to protect the privacy of its users and the security of its devices.

The company did not notify users when their accounts had been logged in to until recently, allowing hackers to access camera feeds without owners being aware.

The Amazon subsidiary rolled out two new privacy features Tuesday to quell concerns. It announced it was adding a second layer of authentication to log in and is also giving users the ability to opt out of sharing information with third-party service providers.