News about Amazon doing horrible things isn’t exactly, well, news anymore, but the almost cartoonishly evil corporation has somehow topped itself: Amazon has apparently been sharing people’s Ring camera footage with law enforcement agencies without owners’ consent, the company revealed, following questioning from Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
For years, Amazon has claimed that police could only access homeowners’ Ring camera footage through court orders or explicit permission from the owners of the footage. Now, the company says police are able to request and access Ring footage through a platform called “Neighbors Public Safety Service,” which has 2,161 law enforcement users—a “more than five-fold increase” since 2019, Markey says. According to the Senator, this year alone, Ring has given footage to police 11 times without customers’ consent.
In a statement to Markey, Amazon claimed that it only gives this footage to police in response to “emergency requests,” and that “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.” The company has also clarified that it informs camera owners when it shares their footage, but emphasized that the company doesn’t need customers’ consent to give clips to police—how reassuring!
Markey has been grilling Ring for several months now, and in June, raised alarms about how a recent test by Consumer Reports revealed that Ring’s doorbell cameras can pick up audio from up to 20 feet away. Ring’s cameras are capable of recording conversations between people who don’t know they’re being recorded in footage that’s easily accessible to law enforcement, which the Senator notes has major ramifications for citizens’ rights “to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded.”
In other words, we live in surveillance-state hell. The Silicon Valley tech bubble’s intimate relationship with law enforcement has been well documented for years now. This has manifested most obviously in the shilling of products like Ring cameras, predicated on copaganda-driven fearmongering about “crime” and public safety aimed at wealthy homeowners.
But big tech’s coziness with police has particularly wild implications in post-Roe v. Wade America, too—earlier this year, it was revealed a private firm was selling the location data of people who visited abortion clinics for as cheap as $160 a pop. Search history and geo-fencing from Google have already contributed to people facing criminal charges for pregnancy loss, while Meta has apparently been sharing the private data of people seeking abortion care with anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.
From Ring cameras to basic Google searches, big tech has essentially placed everything we do under a readily available microscope for police. Sen. Markey is right: “We cannot accept this surveillance as inevitable.”