A coalition of rights groups Tuesday called on elected officials around the country at the state and federal level to end Amazon Ring’s surveillance partnerships with law enforcement due to the “serious threat” the collaborations pose to civil liberties.
In an open letter, 36 civil rights groups warned that Ring’s doorbell surveillance technology “creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely.”
“In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies like ICE or the FBI,” the groups said.
“Amazon Ring’s customers provide the company with the footage needed to build their privately owned, nationwide surveillance dragnet. We’re the ones who pay the cost—as they violate our privacy rights and civil liberties.”
—Evan Greer, Fight for the Future
The Washington Post reported in August that Ring has established “video-sharing partnerships” with more than 400 police forces across the U.S., handing law enforcement “potential access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls the nation’s ‘new neighborhood watch.'”
The civil rights groups demanded that mayors and city councils require that law enforcement cancel all existing partnerships with Amazon ring and pass oversight measures to “deter police departments from entering into such agreements in the future.”
The groups also urged Congress to investigate Ring’s surveillance practices.
Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, one of the letter’s signatories, said in a statement that Amazon Ring “has created the perfect end run around our democratic process by entering into for-profit surveillance partnerships with local police departments.”
According to Greer, “Amazon police departments have easy access to surveillance network without oversight or accountability. Amazon Ring’s customers provide the company with the footage needed to build their privately owned, nationwide surveillance dragnet. We’re the ones who pay the cost—as they violate our privacy rights and civil liberties.”
“Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach,” added Greer. “These partnerships are a clear case of both.”
Leonard Scott IV, campaign Manager on criminal justice at Color of Change, said “Amazon is seeking to profit from mass surveillance by providing police with even more apparatuses, that we know will be used to target black and brown people.”
“We know that technology is already flawed and when used improperly and without government oversight, it will be abused and can put people at risk for being misidentified and falsely matched for crimes,” said Scott. “With this letter, we call on local, state, and federal officials to put an end to the harmful Amazon Ring police partnerships.”
Read the open letter: