Senator Markey Calls for Answers about Amazon Camera Doorbell Company’s Partnerships with Police Departments

 

Washington (September 5, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos regarding the internet-connected doorbell company Ring, which Amazon owns, and Ring’s partnership with over 400 police departments. Reports indicate that these partnerships offer law enforcement officials access to video footage captured by Ring’s products. New information also shows that Ring uses targeted language to encourage users to grant the police access to doorbell video footage, proactively courts law enforcement partners, and urges the police to take steps that will increase rates of video sharing. In the letter, Senator Markey highlights the considerable privacy and civil liberty risks that Ring’s products and its partnerships with police departments pose.

 

“Although Amazon markets Ring as America’s ‘new neighborhood watch,’ the technology captures and stores video from millions of households and sweeps up footage of countless bystanders who may be unaware that they are being filmed,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “I am particularly alarmed to learn that Ring is pursuing facial recognition technology with the potential to flag certain individuals as suspicious based on their biometric information.”

 

A copy of the letter to Amazon can be found HERE.

 

In the letter, Senator Markey requests answers to questions that include:

  • Which are all of the law enforcement entities — including local police departments and federal agencies — that have had or currently have access to video footage from Ring products? Please provide a copy of a standard video-footage-sharing agreement between Ring and a local police department.
  • Does Ring prohibit police department partners with access to users’ footage from sharing that footage with other entities? If not, why not? Is Ring aware of any instances in which police department partners have shared users’ footage with third parties? If so, please describe in detail all such instances.
  • Will Ring commit to reviewing its consent prompts for video-footage sharing in consultation with experts and making any necessary revisions to ensure that Ring does not use manipulative or coercive language with its users? 
  • Does Ring require police department partners to institute security safeguards to ensure that the Ring footage to which they have access is not breached or otherwise accessed by unauthorized entities? If so, please describe these security requirements. If not, why not?
  • Has Ring consulted with experts in civil liberties, criminal justice, and other relevant fields to conduct a review of its internet-connected doorbells and its social network, Neighbors, to ensure that these offerings do not present unique threats to people of color or other populations? If not, why not? If yes, please share the list of consulted parties.
  • Do you have plans to coordinate law enforcement’s use of Amazon’s Rekognition product with forthcoming facial recognition offerings from Ring.

 

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