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Amazon Admits It Handed Ring Doorbell Videos to Police Without Owners’ Consent

The Daily Beast 7/13/2022 Dan Ladden-Hall
Dylan Cauchon © Provided by The Daily Beast Dylan Cauchon

In case anyone needed reminding that using Amazon hardware is tantamount to bugging your own home, it’s now emerged that the web giant has been handing over Ring doorbell videos to police without owners’ consent. Happy Prime Day!

Jeff Bezos’ business has given Americans’ doorstep footage to law enforcement at least 11 times so far this year. The figure emerged in a letter Amazon sent to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) at the beginning of July after he’d asked Amazon about privacy violations in June, Politico reports.

Ring, which was bought by Amazon in 2018, has previously insisted that police can’t look at its doorbell recordings unless owners share them publicly or choose to directly share them with law enforcement, except when police issue subpoenas or in the case of emergencies where someone’s physical safety could be in immediate danger. Although Ring’s company policy does say it can share a user’s data without their consent, the letter to Markey is the first time Ring has confirmed that it has done so.

Lawmakers have previously questioned Amazon’s data-privacy practices, including after a Reuters investigation in November revealed the company had led a secretive lobbying campaign to unwind privacy protections in 25 different states while collecting an enormous amount of sensitive data on its customers. Ring’s doorbell cameras specifically have caused concern because of their ubiquity—and previous reports of their abuse. Amazon revealed in 2020 that four employees had improperly accessed and used Ring video data.

Amazon also has agreements with 2,161 police departments to use their app Neighbors, through which police can send alerts and request footage to users who use it for sharing and commenting on videos.

In the 11 cases in which footage was shared without the owners’ consent this year, Amazon Vice President of Public Policy Brian Huseman explained in the letter that “Ring made a good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person requiring disclosure of information without delay.”

It’s not clear what the incidents involved or where they took place. Privacy activists have previously raised the alarm about potential abuses of police requests for Ring footage, however. The Los Angeles Police Department requested videos of a Black Lives Matter protest in 2021, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,” Markey said in a statement.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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