Ventura County Law Enforcement Agencies Partner with Amazon’s Ring Camera Surveillance Network

The Washington Post recently revealed that approximately 400 American police agencies now engage in a public-private partnership with Ring, Amazon’s doorbell-camera firm.1 According to the Post, the relationship allows police to access the vast network of homeowner-installed doorbell cameras within a specific time and area.

Ventura County Law Enforcement Agencies Partnered With Ring

Courtesy of Ring, the Washington Post discerned that four Ventura County law enforcement agencies joined the company’s surveillance network:2

      • Simi Valley Police Department, Active 4/3/18
      • Oxnard Police Department, Active 12/12/2018
      • Ventura Police Department, Active 2/27/2019
      • Port Hueneme Police Department, Active 3/18/19

Civil Libertarians “Ring” the Alarm Bell

Many civil libertarians are alarmed by the big-tech / government partnership.  The Post notes that “legal experts and privacy advocates have voiced alarm about the company’s eyes-everywhere ambitions and increasingly close relationship with the police, saying that the program could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants and subject innocent people including those who Ring users have flagged as ‘suspicious,’ to greater surveillance and potential risk.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation raises serious concerns over law enforcement’s semi-secretive partnership with the private surveillance network.  The EFF recently noted that aside from the threat to civil liberty, the Ring program can create paranoia in its users – causing them anxiety and worry as every motion-activated alert contributes to “an illusion of a household under siege.”

Documents obtained by Motherboard demonstrate that participating police agencies may view a “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal” that allows investigators to access a map of all ring cameras within a neighborhood.5 In some cases, it appears that Ring’s police partnerships require agencies to promote the company.6

Civil liberty concerns include:

  • User reporting of “suspicious behavior” can result in racial profiling.7
  • Ring terrifies people into believing their homes are in danger, resulting in greater sales for Amazon.8
  • Amazon may own the rights to a user’s video feed, and can thereby copy and distribute footage taken from your front door as it sees fit.9
  • Neighbor feedback provides a constant stream of local suspicion, causing police agencies to unfairly target innocent neighbors or salespersons for undeserved scrutiny.10
  • If paired with Amazon’s patented facial-recognition technology, the big-tech / police partnership could form a ubiquitous and oppressive surveillance state outside of Fourth Amendment scrutiny.
  • The camera’s ability to covertly record audio without permission arguably violates some state wiretapping laws.

Public / Private partnerships foster the ability for state, local. and federal agencies to build a Chinese-like surveillance state outside of the scrutiny of the Fourth Amendment.  Courts must begin to view the symbiotic relationships as the equivalent of “state action.”  Without challenge, the corporate-police partnerships will certainly impinge upon the sense of freedom and liberty once viewed as an American birthright.

Sources Cited:

1Doorbell-camera firm Ring has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach,” by Drew Harwell, Washington Post, August 28, 2019.
2Id.
3Doorbell-camera firm Ring has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach,” by Drew Harwell, Washington Post, August 28, 2019.
4Amazon’s Ring is a Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats,” by Matthew Guariglia, Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 8, 2019.
5Amazon Told Police It Has Partnered With 200 Law Enforcement Agencies,” by Caroline Haskins, Motherboard, July 29, 2019.
6Amazon Told Police It Has Partnered With 200 Law Enforcement Agencies,” by Caroline Haskins, Motherboard, July 29, 2019.
7Amazon’s Ring is a Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats,” by Matthew Guariglia, Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 8, 2019.
8Amazon’s Ring is a Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats,” by Matthew Guariglia, Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 8, 2019.
9Amazon’s Ring is a Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats,” by Matthew Guariglia, Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 8, 2019.
10Doorbell-camera firm Ring has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach,” by Drew Harwell, Washington Post, August 28, 2019.

Write a comment:

*

Your email address will not be published.