The Ring Doorbell — it is one of those simple to install, home security systems that lets you see who is at your door, and also keep tabs on your home when you are away.
However, it, and similar systems, may be “keeping an eye” on more than you think!
These devices are creating a nationwide web of always-on cameras that is becoming the perfect “Big Brother” tool.
But Ring, since it is owned by the ubiquitous Amazon, may be the key component of what amounts to a privately run, for-profit surveillance arm of the government. Ring started out as a product called Doorbot, as featured on the Shark Tank TV show but was rejected. However, the developers of Doorbot got immediate exposure and millions of dollars from investors after the show, changing the name from Doorbot to Ring. Fast forward five years, and Amazon decides to compete with Google’s friendly surveillance system called Nest, and buys Ring for over $1 billion.
Now, what could be wrong with a Ring in every home? Certainly it is a handy device to be able to protect your loved ones and your property with home surveillance. But, what your probably do not know is that Amazon is selling access to your home security camera to local law enforcement!
Again, on the surface that sounds like a good idea, it’s a great way to keep your entire neighborhood safe from sexual predators, car thieves and other bad guys. But, what about your personal privacy? What happens when your local PD sees footage of you and your friends smoking a joint or two at your backyard BBQ, or staggering out of your car as you pull into your driveway?
Even if you are not doing anything wrong, the idea of the cops being able to tap into your home at any time without a warrant, should stop anyone who believes in Civil Liberties in their track!
Can This Big Brother Project Be Stopped?
There’s already an online petition urging consumers “to stop your local police department from partnering with Amazon to build a for-profit, surveillance empire.”
But for people in some 200 communities it apparently is too late, as Motherboard reports many “local law enforcement agencies across the country have entered into surveillance partnerships with Amazon’s Ring doorbells.”
The petition explains that Amazon is providing police with free or subsidized camera-enabled doorbells to market to residents along with a “Law Enforcement Portal” app and “heat map” that makes it easy for police to request footage from users en masse.
The partnership essentially allows for warrantless, dragnet surveillance with zero oversight or judicial review.
Right now police nationwide can obtain footage from the doorbells if there is a crime in the area by going to court, and obtaining a subpoena. But, this is different. If you accept one of these “Law Enforcement” enabled units from your local PD, you are effectively giving them a license to spy on you. The Amazon partnership removes the need for a court order to gain access to your camera, by obtaining prior approval from customers in the fine print of these agreements.
“If a police department wanted to install surveillance cameras on all of our front doors, they would have to get permission from elected officials and the public,” the petition explains. “Amazon has found the perfect end-run around the democratic process.”
As the creators of the petition explained, “The systems, in themselves, aren’t an issue. It’s when the government gets involved and big money starts being made that conflicts of interest can lead to misuse and violations of privacy.”
As bad as that sounds, that is not the worst of it. The petitioners went on to say, “Ring is starting to leverage these backdoor agreements to require these agencies to help them expand their network,” it said, citing a report that police are being required now to “engage the … community with outreach efforts on the platform to encourage adoption of the platform/app.”
The report said police are being given templates and educational materials to distribute to elicit more customers for Amazon.
One memo to a police department said, “You are doing a great job interacting with them and that will be critical in increasing the opt-in rate.” And alarmingly, it adds, “The more users you have, the more useful the information you can collect.”