Ring’s close alliance with police departments continues to be a headache for the company with each new revelation. Amazon-owned Ring expends great effort to get its customers to use its Neighbors video sharing app, to which it gives police access. Thanks to newly leaked emails, we know Ring is actually coaching officers in ways to convince users to provide video footage without a warrant.
Installing a Ring camera doesn’t automatically make your videos available to police, but Ring works hard to get people to download and use the Neighbors app. That connects to an online community portal where you can share video with other users. In cities where police have partnered with Ring (and push Ring products), officers can also send out requests for video. Ring even gives police free cameras to distribute to the community based on how many Neighbors downloads they can deliver.
When police ask for video footage in Neighbors, they don’t have to go through the hassle of getting a warrant. That makes it an appealing prospect for police, but users are often hesitant to share their camera footage. In several email exchanges obtained by Motherboard, Ring “Partner Success Associates” explain how police can obtain higher compliance. Unsurprisingly, many of the techniques involve getting more people to download Ring’s app.
Ring told police that departments with higher levels of Neighbors opt-ins have better results. That fits nicely with Ring’s mission to get as many people as possible using Neighbors. The company has been criticized for stoking fear with the Neighbors app. Ring even has news editors who post unverified details of 911 calls in Neighbors.
Ring has also provided police with templates for footage requests, hoping to get more users to respond favorably. It also suggests departments remain active on social media, which is not altogether bad advice. However, Ring, of course, frames this as a way to drive downloads of the Neighbors app. Ring also instructs police to post public messages in Neighbors to encourage the community to provide video when asked.
Activists have called on police departments to stop partnering with Ring, citing the unregulated public-private partnership to create a video surveillance dragnet. Ring is far from the only consumer security camera provider, but it’s the only one with an aggressive campaign to get people using a scaremongering “community” app that helps police circumvent normal evidence gathering.
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