Amazon's Ring and the Surveillance State
While Ring sharing user videos with law enforcement isn’t news, Amazon sharing exactly which cities have signed onto their sharing program is news. From Cnet:
At the time of this article's initial publication, the map showed 405 police departments partnered with Ring, with the number possibly set to grow. When the Washington Post reported on the map four hours prior to its unveiling, the official count was 401. This is the first time Ring has disclosed how many police partnerships it has. It began courting law enforcement agencies last March.
If cities came in and starting requiring us to put cameras on all of our houses, we’d be up in arms. But the fact that Amazon is building this feature on top of their existing customers is troubling to say the least. Are there benefits to law enforcement because of this? No doubt. But is it something we should be doing?
From the Washington Post:
By tapping into “a perceived need for more self-surveillance and by playing on consumer fears about crime and security,” he added, Ring has found “a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government.”
Even though users have to grant Ring and law enforcement access to previously recorded videos, this is a slippery slope. There needs to be broader public debate around this.