No More Doorbell Videos, Police. Privacy Comes First

Police Footage

Ring, owned by Amazon, is no longer permitting police departments to request from users the doorbell video footage via its “Request for Assistance” (RFA) tool in the “Neighbors” application.

What’s Ring, RFA, And Neighbors?

Ring is a home security and home company that’s owned by Amazon. It’s well-known for its video doorbell products, capturing activities at doorsteps. While the “Neighbors” application is a mobile application correlated with Ring, designed to create a virtual neighborhood watch by which users share and receive information about local crime and safety concerns in the communities they live in.

“Amazon acquired Ring in 2015 for a reported $1 billion. The home security company is primarily known for its connected doorbell devices, which allow users to record activity in front of their homes, though it has expanded to include a portfolio of products ranging from camera-equipped floodlights to flying security camera drones,” stated CNBC.

The “Request for Assistance” tool used to be a feature within Ring’s neighbors app, allowing law agencies to public request for video footage from Ring users.

So, what happened is that Ring prohibited policemen from obtaining doorbell footage after the criticism received about privacy concerns and potential for abuse. Since it allowed police to request footage without legal warrants, it gave them broad access to the user’s data.  

“Now, Ring hopefully will altogether be out of the business of platforming casual and warrantless police requests for footage to its users,” said Matthew Guariglia, a senior policy analyst at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Traditional Warrants Win

Police traditional warrants are back. Critics successfully argued about the power of the application to give away user’s personal data. Hence, targeting hackers to have the freedom to play around with such sensitive data. Especially that such cameras, the ones at the doorbells are vulnerable to hacking, since mostly they have weak passwords, outdated software, and can be accessed physically.

After Ring faced so much pressure from the lawmakers, media investigations, and privacy advocates, they shut down Ring, RFA, and the “Neighbors” application, acknowledging users’ privacy concerns. Respect comes first in such cases, increasing transparency and trust is the significant aspect, balance is all what counts in the digital age. So, definitely it is a win-win situation, on both the short-term and the long-term goals for the users and for Amazon.


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