NATIONAL NEWS

Amazon’s Ring will now require a warrant for police to access user video

Jan 24, 2024, 3:16 PM

Amazon Ring camera...

Authorities seeking Ring surveillance videos must now submit a formal legal request to the company, rather than soliciting footage directly from users through the app, Ring said in a blog post Wednesday. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

(Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Amazon’s Ring will no longer let police and other government agencies request doorbell camera footage from within the company’s Neighbors app, in what privacy advocates are hailing as a long-awaited victory for civil liberties.

Authorities seeking Ring surveillance videos must now submit a formal legal request to the company, rather than soliciting footage directly from users through the app, Ring said in a blog post Wednesday.

“Public safety agencies like fire and police departments can still use the Neighbors app to share helpful safety tips, updates, and community events,” the blog post said.

On January 31, law enforcement will no longer be able to make new posts asking users to submit footage, though Ring users may continue to respond to existing police requests on the app until February 29, a Ring spokesperson told CNN.

Ring’s decision to wind down the video-sharing program, known as Request for Assistance, has nationwide implications. According to a tracker maintained by the consumer advocacy group Fight for the Future, hundreds of law enforcement agencies have struck up partnerships with Ring. The partnerships highlight authorities’ appetite for data from an increasingly ubiquitous gadget that can help shed light on local crimes but that critics say is invasive and creepy and threatens citizen rights.

A ‘dystopian business model’?

“Ring shutting down the ‘red carpet’ surveillance portal they offered to police is unquestionably a victory for the coalition of racial justice and human rights advocates that have been calling to end these partnerships for years,” said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future. “That said, this move only scratches the surface of addressing the harm done by Ring’s dystopian business model.”

Matthew Guariglia, a senior policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said Ring’s decision will end the ability for police to make warrantless requests for information through the Neighbors app and is a step in the right direction.

But, he warned, it would not necessarily stop police from continuing to persuade Ring users to voluntarily give up their rights. Police can contact Ring users off the app. Ring users can still decide if they want to voluntarily send video, sounds or images from their Ring devices to law enforcement.

“Ring users should also know that when the police knock on their door, they have the right to, and should, request that police get a warrant before handing over footage,” if they don’t want to turn over the footage, Guariglia said.

A spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police, a group representing law enforcement officers, didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on Ring’s announcement.

Ring has faced years of scrutiny over its video-sharing practices. In 2021, after pressure from groups including EFF, Ring said it would no longer let government agencies contact users privately to request their surveillance footage, requiring them instead to solicit video submissions through public posts on the Neighbors app.

Critics allege that Ring’s doorbell cameras have contributed to racial profiling and invasions of privacy. Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, who has questioned Ring about its practices, has said authorities’ use of Ring footage “creates a crisis of accountability.”

In response to Markey’s questions, Ring has said it reserves the right to hand over camera footage to law enforcement in an emergency and without a warrant and disclosed in 2022 that it had done so at least 11 times in the first half of that year alone.

Surveillance scrutinized

Guariglia said that despite Wednesday’s announcement, he is “still deeply skeptical about law enforcement’s and Ring’s ability to determine what is, or is not, an emergency” allowing authorities to bypass the legal process.

Ring has also faced blowback over “Ring Nation,” a TV show highlighting humorous video clips captured by Ring devices that the company said were intended to spark delight but that critics said normalized and made light of Amazon’s growing surveillance power.

And Ring has received wider criticism over its handling of user data and its ability to protect users’ privacy. Last year, Ring agreed to pay $5.8 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that it gave employees unrestricted access to videos from customers’ Ring devices and ignored reports that some Ring employees were secretly viewing user footage. The FTC also alleged that numerous instances of hacked Ring cameras undercut the company’s marketing claims that the cameras would enhance user security.

Wednesday’s announcement comes on the same day that Senate lawmakers questioned law enforcement and academics about the rising use of artificial intelligence in policing. And it coincides with reports of wrongful arrests arising from the use of facial recognition analysis of surveillance camera footage.

“While AI has the potential to improve law enforcement efficacy, it can also cause harmful errors with high-stakes consequences for life and liberty,” Rebecca Wexler, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, testified to lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing.

“Congress should require [AI] vendors to allow independent audits by clarifying that AI tools used in the criminal legal system must be subject to independent review.”

While Ring did not disclose its specific reasons for ending the video-sharing program, at a certain point the company must have calculated that its perceived closeness with authorities hurt more than it helped overall, said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I would’ve loved to have been a fly on that wall,” Stanley said. “It seems significant that they decided to pull back from a hand-in-glove relationship with law enforcement, at least in their marketing.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Cave filled with clear water...

CNN

You know the most visited, but here are the least visited US national parks in 2023

There are no roads and no trails in America’s least-visited national park. Just vast wilderness. Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, located 200 miles (322 kilometers) north of Fairbanks, stretches over 8.4 million acres.

10 hours ago

Taylor Swift is pictured at the Chiefs-Dolphins playoff game in Kansas City in January. (Ed Zurga, ...

Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

Taylor Swift baked ‘homemade Pop-Tarts’ for Travis Kelce’s teammates, says coach Andy Reid

Thanks to her well-known love of baking, Taylor Swift won over her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s Kansas City Chiefs teammates the old-fashioned way: by baking them “homemade Pop-Tarts,” according to the team’s coach Andy Reid.

12 hours ago

The lowest single-day price for Animal Kingdom has gone up by $10 for 2025 tickets. (AaronP/Bauer-G...

Marnie Hunter, CNN

Walt Disney World has raised ticket prices for 2025

Walt Disney World has put 2025 tickets on sale, and prices for many tickets have gone up from 2024 pricing.

12 hours ago

FILE - A solar farm sits in Mona, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The House voted Friday, April 28,...

Sophie Austin, Associated Press/Report for America

Biden administration taps $366M to fund clean energy for Native American tribes and rural areas

The federal government will fund 17 projects across the U.S. to expand access to renewable energy on Native American reservations and in other rural areas, the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

14 hours ago

Police in the Caribbean are investigating the disappearance of an American couple after escaped inm...

Polo Sandoval, Elizabeth Wolfe and Sahar Akbarzai, CNN

Missing American couple allegedly hijacked on yacht in Grenada were likely thrown overboard, police say

The American couple allegedly hijacked by escaped prisoners while on their yacht in Grenada last week were likely thrown overboard, police said.

14 hours ago

FILE - The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is seen, May 11, 2022, at a dealer in Tokyo. In a statement issu...

Associated Press

Toyota recalling 381,000 Tacoma pickups because parts can fall off rear axles, increasing crash risk

Toyota is recalling about 381,000 Tacoma midsize pickup trucks in the U.S. because a part can separate from the rear axle, increasing the risk of a crash.

14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Amazon’s Ring will now require a warrant for police to access user video