February 12, 2024

Amazon Ring: Police Will Now Need A Warrant To Access Doorbell Cam Footage Amid Racial Profiling Concerns

Amazon Ring

Amazon-owned Ring will stop allowing police departments to request user doorbell camera footage without a warrant or subpoena following concerns over privacy and racial profiling.

Ring’s police partnerships

The Ring Doorbell Cam is a wire-free video doorbell that can be installed into people’s front doors and homes. Amazon acquired Ring in 2015 for a reported $1 billion.

In 2019, Amazon Ring partnered with police departments nationwide through their Neighbors app.

Police could access Ring’s Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal, which allowed them to view a map of the cameras’ locations and directly ask owners for access to their footage.

In 2020, Amazon Ring was found to be collaborating with over 1,300 police departments in the US, a threefold increase from 2019.

In 2022, Amazon also disclosed that it may provide footage directly to law enforcement “in cases involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person.”

Racial Profiling And Privacy Concerns

Ring has long sparked concerns about privacy and racial profiling, and there have been several petitions asking the company to stop sharing information with police.

The Neighbors app, also called the “perfect storm of privacy threats,” has been noted to facilitate reporting of suspicious behavior, which can amount to racial profiling.

In 2019, a Motherboard report revealed that Black and brown people were more likely to be surveilled by the Neighbors app than white people. For example, an African-American real estate agent was stopped by police because neighbors thought it was suspicious for him to ring a doorbell.

Activists have been organizing to protect communities of color from Amazon’s law enforcement collaboration.

The Mozilla Foundation also called on Amazon Ring to pause its partnerships with law enforcement in light of the disproportionate levels of police surveillance used on Black people.

Dozens of people additionally sued Amazon over invasions of privacy after their Ring smart cameras were hacked, leading them to receive death threats, racial slurs, and blackmail.

A Stop To Police Requests

The company is now sunsetting the Request for Assistance (RFA) tool, which means public safety agencies, including the police department, will no longer be able to use the tool to request and receive footage.

However, they can still use the Neighbors app to share safety tips, updates, and community events.

The company did not provide a reason for the change.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.