Amazon gave Ring footage to police without customer consent

Ring
·Weekend Editor
·2 min read

As of July 1st of this year, Amazon has provided Ring footage to US law enforcement 11 times without user consent or a court order, according to a disclosure shared by Senator Edward Markey on Wednesday. The Massachusetts Democrat sent Amazon a letter last month with questions about the company’s policies related to Ring and its relationships with police. Amazon responded to the letter at the start of July.

The disclosure marks the first time Amazon has shared this kind of information with the public. In its law enforcement guidelines, Ring says it reserves the right to “immediately” respond to police requests in cases where someone could die or suffer serious injury.

“In each instance, Ring made a good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person requiring disclosure of information without delay,” wrote Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice-president of public policy, of the 11 videos. Huseman didn’t say the specific footage Ring shared with police.

In his letter, Markey asked Amazon to agree not to accept financial contributions from police or participate in sting operations. The company did not agree to those restrictions. In the past, Ring has actively courted partnerships with law enforcement and even gone so far as to author statements shared by police.

“It’s simply untrue that Ring gives anyone unfettered access to customer data or video, as we have repeatedly made clear to our customers and others,” a Ring spokesperson told Engadget. “The law authorizes companies like Ring to provide information to government entities if the company believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person, such as a kidnapping or an attempted murder, requires disclosure without delay. Ring faithfully applies that legal standard.”

The news that Amazon shared footage with police without user consent at least 11 times this year is likely to add to the concerns many privacy experts have about the company. In 2021, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that the Los Angeles Police Department requested footage from Ring of Black Lives Matter protests captured by residential cameras.

Markey used the disclosure to call on lawmakers to pass the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, a bill he introduced alongside Senator Jeff Merkley and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley. “As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,” said Markey. “We cannot accept this as inevitable in our country.”