A hot potato: Amazon Ring's partnerships with police and fire departments that allow them to request users' security camera footage has brought plenty of controversies. But the company isn't slowing down the program—quite the opposite. A new report reveals that 1,189 departments joined last year, bringing the total to 2,014.
The Financial Times reports that the number of local police and fire departments added to Ring's Neighbors Portal program in 2020 was more than double the 703 new additions from a year earlier. In 2018, just 40 signed up. There are now only two states in which no departments participate: Wyoming and Montana.
Police and fire services taking part in the program requested videos for more than 22,235 incidents last year. Amazon notes that customers can opt-out of receiving requests from police, but subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders can still be used to access footage from users opting to deny requests.
Police made 1,900 requests for data that users had denied to them, and Amazon, which has the final say on whether to hand anything over, agreed to 57 percent of these. While that's lower than the 67 percent it complied with during 2019, the number of these requests increased 150 percent in 2020.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has warned that while some owners may be okay with sharing their footage, it's possible that neighbors and passers-by could be caught on camera, essentially creating a "massive and unchallenged" surveillance network.
Those unconcerned about the program's privacy aspects might feel safer knowing police have another tool in their arsenal, but an NBC News report from February 2019 found it wasn't beneficial when investigating severe crimes—most of the arrests that used Ring footage were for low-level, non-violent property crimes.