Senator Markey Investigation into Amazon Ring Doorbell Reveals Egregiously Lax Privacy Policies and Civil Rights Protections
Lawmaker found Ring has no evidentiary standards for law enforcement to request video footage, no compliance mechanisms to ensure footage of children isn’t collected
Washington (November 19, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and leading champion on Congress on strengthening online privacy, today released alarming findings from his investigation of Amazon doorbell company Ring that reveal little to no privacy policies or civil rights protections for video collected by the technology. Senator Markey began his investigation in September of the internet-connected doorbell company Ring, which Amazon owns, and Ring’s partnership with over 400 police departments. Reports indicate that the partnerships offered law enforcement officials access to video footage captured by Ring’s products. New information also showed 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. After two inquiries to the company, Senator Markey found an alarming disregard for basic privacy protections for consumers, as well as a lack of codified rules or policies to protect consumers from invasive or even discriminatory information-gathering practices.
“Connected doorbells are well on their way to becoming a mainstay of American households, and the lack of privacy and civil rights protections for innocent residents is nothing short of chilling,” said Senator Markey. “Amazon Ring’s policies are an open door for privacy and civil liberty violations. If you’re an adult walking your dog or a child playing on the sidewalk, you shouldn’t have to worry that Ring’s products are amassing footage of you and that law enforcement may hold that footage indefinitely or share that footage with any third parties. Amazon’s Ring is marketed to help keep families safe, but privacy rights are in real danger as a result of company policies. Amazon is not doing enough to ensure that its products and practices do not run afoul of our civil liberties.”
In his investigation, Senator Markey found:
- Ring has no security requirements for the law enforcement offices that get access to users’ footage
- Ring has no restrictions on law enforcement sharing users’ footage with third parties
- Ring has no policies that prohibit law enforcement from keeping shared video footage forever
- Ring has no evidentiary standard for law enforcement to request Ring footage from users
- Ring refuses to commit to not selling users’ biometric data
- Ring has no oversight/compliance mechanisms in place to ensure that users don’t collect footage from beyond their property
- Ring has no oversight/compliance mechanisms in place to ensure that users don’t collect footage of children
- Ring has no compliance mechanisms in place to prohibit law enforcement from requesting and obtaining footage that does not comply with Ring’s Terms of Service
Responses to Senator Markey’s first and second letters to Amazon can be found HERE (September 2019) and HERE (November 2019). Senator Markey’s original September 2019 letter can be foundHERE and October 2019 HERE.