Amazon Ring Owners Can Have Their Videos Given To Police Without Their Consent

By Douglas Helm | Published

amazon ring

US Senator Ed Markey recently signed off on a probe into Amazon Ring technology that found 11 Ring doorbell videos were given to law enforcement without owner consent. These 11 videos were just in the first six months of 2022. In response, Amazona’s Vice President of Public Policy Brian Huseman indicated that Amazon “made a good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person.” Law enforcement agencies made emergency disclosure requests to Amazon to obtain the videos.

This probe reveals more about the relationship between Amazon and law enforcement agencies. Currently, Amazon’s Neighbors Public Safety Service has partnerships with 2,161 law enforcement agencies and over 450 fire departments. This is a five-fold increase in law enforcement partnerships since 2019, showing that there doesn’t seem to be any signs of Amazon slowing down these partnership agreements. Amazon Ring had previously committed to recruiting public health departments, animal services, and agencies that address homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health to their Neighbors Public Safety Service program, but police departments and fire departments are still the only partners that have signed on.

Considering the history of Amazon Ring and privacy issues, this latest violation of owner permissions isn’t too surprising. In 2020, an Amazon engineer spoke out saying that Amazon Ring should be shut down due to privacy issues. Ring also fired four employees in 2020 for abusing access to customer video footage. The company had received four complaints in the span of four years about employees accessing data that wasn’t in their job scope.

An obvious solution to the Amazon Ring security issue would be implementing end-to-end encryption on all Ring videos. End-to-end encryption prevents third parties from accessing data in-between its endpoints. However, Amazon is not considering this option. The default setting for Ring users continues to allow Amazon and Ring to access user videos and recordings. You can opt-in to end-to-end encryption if you have a Ring doorbell, but most users aren’t aware that their videos are accessible if you don’t opt-in to this setting.

Senator Ed Markey has previously expressed concern with biometric technology that is used by many major tech companies. In 2021, Markey also re-introduced legislation to ban government use of biometric technology. For Markey’s probe into Amazon Ring, he asked a series of questions regarding privacy practices. Ring’s response to his letter included a refusal to stop using voice and face recognition technology in their products. Amazon Ring also didn’t clarify the distance that audio recordings can be captured, as well as refused to turn off Ring’s default setting of automatically recording audio.

While Amazon Ring is far from the only company that has privacy concerns leveled against them, they’re undoubtedly one of the biggest and most widespread technologies that capture this data. In addition to Amazon’s Ring devices, they also have devices like Amazon Echo, Fire TV, and others that use voice recognition technology. It seems like, for now, if you want more privacy from your Amazon devices, you’ll need to go in and adjust all of the privacy settings manually. Either that or you can just forgo having Amazon tech in your house altogether.