After coming under much media scrutiny, Ring has released a map of all its partnerships with local police departments. The map showed 405 in total, when it was published on Ring‚Äôs website early Wednesday, and is being constantly updated, according to the company. So that number will likely rise.
The Active Law Enforcement Map lets you see if your local police department is signed up and you can search either by zip code, address, or visually by zooming into a region or city.
In an accompanying blog post, Ring founder Jamie Siminoff says the benefits of Ring‚Äôs attempts to help ‚Äúcommunities work together,‚ÄĚ will create safer neighborhoods, and that its Neighbors app can ‚Äúeasily facilitate conversations around crime and safety among all members of the community.‚ÄĚ
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The partnerships allow police departments access to a special law enforcement portal of the Neighbors app that lets the department post alerts to specific neighborhoods, which residents will receive through the app. They can also interact with public posts in the app as a law enforcement office, and directly request footage from any participating Ring user.
In response to several reports that police are able to bypass user permissions to access footage, Ring issued a statement clarifying its policies. "We want to set the record straight‚ÄĒcustomers, not law enforcement, are in control of their videos. Videos are shared through the Neighbors program only if: 1) a customer chooses to post it publicly on the Neighbors app; 2) explicit consent is provided by the customer.
"Law enforcement agencies who participate in the Neighbors app must go through the Ring team when making a video request to customers. Customers can choose to opt out or decline any request, and law enforcement agencies have no visibility into which customers have received a request and which have opted out or declined," Ring said.
While the user must give their permission for the police to access any private video, the ease of this transfer of surveillance footage from private persons to law enforcement officials has prompted privacy advocates to raise concerns around these partnerships.
They say Ring, which is owned by Amazon, has effectively created a digital neighborhood watch ‚Äď an app with a local, social network, sharing video feeds from local, internet-connected cameras. The repercussions of this type of digital surveillance are still unknown, but we‚Äôve watched too many episodes of Black Mirror to believe it‚Äôs only going to be positive.
Another concern is the appearance that police are actively ‚Äúselling‚ÄĚ Ring‚Äôs services to their residents and that there are incentives employed by Ring to encourage this. The idea of an Amazon-owned company getting cozy with police has those privacy advocates up in arms, and pushing for local, elected officials to review these partnerships and provide oversight to the process.