Police Can Access Your Ring Camera Footage Without a Warrant
The term “surveillance state” brings certain images to mind: cameras on every corner, cataloging passersby’s every move. What one may not always consider is that some of those cameras may have been put up by private citizens for nonpublic use.
In 2018, Amazon bought Ring, a company that manufactures video doorbells, cameras, and other home security equipment. At its acquisition, just a few years after failing to get an offer on ABC’s Shark Tank, the company was valued at upward of a billion dollars. Ring’s doorbells give consumers live video of any visitor to their home; the company’s founder touts that its products prevent neighborhood crime.
To that end, Ring provides a companion app, Neighbors, which functions similarly to NextDoor. Customers can share camera footage or safety alerts with other nearby Ring users. Ring has also partnered with over 2,000 police departments across the country. Using the Neighbors app, police are able to request access to customers’ video footage to aid in investigations.
Ring’s website stresses that it is the customer’s choice whether or not to turn over the footage in response to a request. But as it turns out, that may not always be true.
Earlier this month, The Verge reported that despite Ring’s assurances, police can access users’ stored footage without the customer’s permission or even a warrant. The Law Enforcement Request form on Amazon’s website even includes a bright red “Submit Emergency Request” button. While Ring’s Terms of Service stipulate that it will only furnish content to law enforcement, for example, “if legally required to do so” or to “comply with applicable law, regulation, legal process or reasonable preservation request,” Amazon’s Law Enforcement Guidelines state that it “reserves the right to respond immediately to urgent law enforcement requests for information in cases involving a threat to public safety or risk of harm to any person.”
In fact, in a July 1 response to questions from Sen. Ed Markey (D–Mass.), Amazon admitted that so far in 2022, “in response to an emergency request,” Ring provided customer footage to law enforcement 11 times. Given the number of police agencies in the program, this is a fairly insubstantial percent of the total, but it’s also only for a single year; the company did not provide totals for any previous year. And as the Electron
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