Cryptography How Amazon is helping cops build local surveillance networks

Published on June 6th, 2019 📆 | 5412 Views ⚑

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How Amazon is helping cops build local surveillance networks

Amazon’s Ring doorbells are helping cops build surveillance networks in neighborhoods across the country.

More than 50 local police departments have partnered with Ring over the last two years and promoted the products to citizens — essentially building neighborhoods with security cameras on every doorstep, according to a report published Wednesday by tech website CNET.

“Our township is now entirely covered by cameras,” Capt. Vincent Kerney, detective bureau commander of the Bloomfield Police Department in New Jersey told the website. “Every area of town we have, there are some Ring cameras.”

When cops partner with Ring, they get access to a law enforcement dashboard where they can geofence an area and request footage filmed at specific times. They can only get the video if the resident chooses to send it, otherwise they would need to subpoena Ring.

But some police departments have been organizing Ring giveaways — at times using taxpayer dollars to buy the Amazon products — with the caveat that recipients of the smart doorbells need to hand over footage when requested, according to the report.

Ring said it would start cracking down on these strings attached.

“Ring does not support programs that require recipients to subscribe to a recording plan or that footage from Ring devices be shared as a condition for receiving a donated device. We are actively working with partners to ensure this is reflected in their programs,” Ring said in a statement.

Cops are most interested in Ring’s Neighborhood app, which is essentially a social network where residents can share the feeds to their cameras.

“We’re encouraging residents of Mountain Brook to purchase that type of technology and work with the app,” said Ted Cook, the police chief in Mountain Brook, Alabama. “We see it as trying to create a digital neighborhood watch.”

Police say the app has helped them solve crimes, since residents often send them footage of suspicious cars driving in the neighborhood or of someone swiping a package from their doorstep.

But advocates say the police partnerships with Ring would allow cops an unprecedented amount of surveillance on citizens.

“What we have here is a perfect marriage between law enforcement and one of the world’s biggest companies creating conditions for a society that few people would want to be a part of,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

This story originally appeared in the New York Post.

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