Amazon’s Ring will stop letting police request doorbell video footage

on Jan27
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A Ring Stick Up Cam is pictured at the Amazon Headquarters in Seattle following a launch event on Sept. 20, 2018.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

Amazon‘s Ring will no longer allow police to request users’ doorbell video footage in its neighborhood watch app.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Ring said this week it plans to discontinue its “Request for Assistance” tool, which allowed law enforcement to submit requests for users’ footage in their communities through a publicly accessible post in its Neighbors app.

“Public safety agencies like fire and police departments can still use the Neighbors app to share helpful safety tips, updates, and community events,” Eric Kuhn, head of Neighbors, wrote in the post. “They will no longer be able to use the RFA tool to request and receive video in the app.”

Ring in 2021 made police requests for user footage public in its Neighbors app. Previously, law enforcement could message users privately to request clips from their smart doorbell cameras.

Police can still obtain Ring video footage using a search warrant or subpoena. In response to a 2022 letter from Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., questioning its police partnerships, the company disclosed that Ring may provide footage directly to law enforcement “in cases involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person.”

Amazon acquired Ring in 2015 for a reported $1 billion. The home security company is primarily known for its connected doorbell devices, which allow users to record activity in front of their homes, though it has expanded to include a portfolio of products ranging from camera-equipped floodlights to flying security camera drones.

Ring has long sparked controversy about privacy due to its controversial partnerships with hundreds of police departments across the U.S. Privacy advocates have expressed concern that the program, and Ring’s accompanying Neighbors app, have heightened the risk of racial profiling and turned residents into informants, with few guardrails around how law enforcement can use the material.

Jamie Siminoff, Ring’s former CEO, couched the features as a public safety tool that would help communities. “My goal would be to have every law enforcement agency on the police portal,” Siminoff told CBS in 2019. Siminoff stepped down last year and was replaced by Elizabeth Hamren, a former executive at Microsoft and Discord.

Kuhn wrote in the post Wednesday that Ring is introducing updates to the Neighbors app, including “Ring Moments, a new post category that expands the content allowed on the Neighbors app beyond just crime and safety,” and a “Best of Ring” tool that will feature a rotating selection of top videos.

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