WTF?! Amazon’s Ring division is reportedly advising law enforcement on how to persuade people to turn over their camera footage without providing a warrant. Furthermore, if the owner refuses, the police may still be able to retrieve it from Ring by request.
Update 8/8/2019: Amazon contacted TechSpot by email to clarify how it shares with law enforcement.
"Ring will not release customer information in response to government demands without a valid and binding legal demand directed and addressed to Ring," the spokesperson said.
Additionally, Amazon said that law enforcement cannot contact camera owners through the interactive map portal, but rather have to go through Ring.
"The only way law enforcement can request footage in the portal is through the video request process, where they send a request to Ring," explained the spokesperson. "They do not have the ability to contact camera owners directly through Neighbors."
When police departments sign up for Ring’s “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal,” they get access to an interactive map that shows the locations of Ring cameras in a given region. On this map, they can click a camera and request to receive its footage. They do not need a warrant to do this, but the customer does have to agree to hand it over.
According to emails obtained by Motherboard, Ring “Partner Success Associates” have been coaching law enforcement officers (LEO) on how to get users to agree to turn over footage.
“I have noticed you have been posting alerts and receiving feedback from the community,” an email to a police office in Bloomfield, New Jersey read. “You are doing a great job interacting with them, and that will be critical in increasing the opt-in rate. The more users you have, the more useful the information you can collect.”
The advisers claim that being active on social media also helps. Additionally, there is a Ring neighborhood watch app for citizens. Associates say that having LEO regularly posting in this app increases opt-in rates. Associates even provide templates that officers can use when requesting footage.
If police are still having trouble retrieving video, they can get it directly through Ring without the user’s permission as reported by GovTech.
The Fresno Police Department and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office have both recently partnered with Ring and received training on how to use the portal (video above). According to Public Information Officer Tony Botti with the Fresno Sheriff’s Office, citizens are usually receptive and cooperative to requests for video. However, when users refuse, officers can just bypass them.
“If we ask within 60 days of the recording and as long as it’s been uploaded to the cloud, then Ring can take it out of the cloud and send it to us legally so that we can use it as part of our investigation,” said Botti.
This can be done without a warrant because Ring’s policy is to comply with law enforcement requests. As to privacy Botti was dismissive.
“I would say to anybody who thinks this is another case of Big Brother watching or us trying to invade privacy, go to step one: it took the consumer to invest in the product,” Botti told GovTech. “They chose to pay for a service that enables it to be viewed by either us or Ring. The consumer knows what they’re getting into...If you’re a good upstanding person who is doing things lawfully, nobody has concerns.”
In other words, as long as you have nothing to hide, you should have no problem with the police violating your Fourth Amendment protections.
Image credit: BrandonKleinVideo via Shutterstock