Surveillance

New data analysis of partnerships between Amazon Ring and Police Departments shows that some communities are surveilled at much higher rates than others

Data Source: Amazon

The Path Forward 

  • 🧑‍⚖️ Courts need to rule on evidentiary standards — Senator Ed Markey has noted that “Ring has no evidentiary standard for law enforcement to request Ring footage from users” and Ring appears to use standards that have no basis in legal standing. For example, Ring currently limits requests to “video recordings only from an area between 0.025 and 0.5 square miles (0.5 square miles is approximately 10 city blocks)” from an event. This seemingly random distance may be wholly inadequate in rural regions or may be too expansive in urban regions, putting people at risk of the “plain view” doctrine. In the meantime, Ring can improve its Informed Consent notices so that when a police request does come to a Ring user, they know that they don’t have to turn over the footage. 

  • 🔬 Tech companies need to create better transparency reports — Reports on the types of requests that law enforcement are making will improve transparency into Ring-Police partnerships, thereby supporting greater accountability. Although Ring currently publishes a map of how many data requests it receives from police departments, this information is not detailed enough and is difficult to navigate. Instead, Ring and police departments ought to follow transparency best practices for law enforcement data requests as illustrated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. BJS has outlined 6 categories of statistics that law-enforcement should publish to show how effective their policies are (and whether they actually reduce crime). President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015) recommended that police leaders work to “establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and accountability.”