Law enforcement can get Ring doorbell video by just asking for it [u]

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 10
Concern has been raised over Amazon's Ring video doorbell and its links to law enforcement, with the assorted tools and partnerships between the retailer and the police considered to be eroding privacy for customers, their neighbors, and anyone who comes into contact with the surveillance devices, with law enforcement officials having relatively easy access to camera footage.




Acquired in February 2018 by Amazon, the Ring video doorbell range has been marketed as an easy way for homeowners to keep watch of parcels and to see who is at the door from their smartphone, via the official app. The increased security is also bolstered with the ability to record what is happening within view of the doorbell, which can be used later to catch criminals.

The increased use of Ring by consumers since its acquisition by Amazon has also been accompanied by a greater push by Amazon to provide more access to footage gathered by the camera network to law enforcement, reports GovTech. By working with police, Amazon is accused of helping produce surveillance networks which are relatively easy to access and obtain video from.

One area of interest to privacy advocates is free access to a Ring portal for the police that enables them to communicate with residents to acquire video. In exchange for the access, Amazon requires a memo of understanding from the police that effectively allows Amazon to ghostwrite press releases from law enforcement, effectively making the security agencies an advertising venue.

"Law enforcement can only submit requests to users in a given area when investigating an active case," a spokesperson for Ring told AppleInsider a day after our request for comment. "Ring facilitates these requests and user consent is required in order for any footage or information to be shared with law enforcement."

If a resident declines to provide video for a police request, there is still an opportunity for law enforcement to get the footage, by contacting Amazon directly. Public information officer for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Tony Botti advised that, if a request is declined by the homeowner, police can essentially "subpoena" the video from Amazon directly, ignoring the failed request completely. But, a subpoena isn't required, and there is a law enforcement portal for law enforcement to ask for the video, without a court order.

"If we ask within 60 days of the recording and as long as it's been uploaded to the cloud, then Ring can take it out of the cloud and send it to us legally so that we can use it as part of our investigation," said Botti.

Ring has denied the claims that Botti made.

"The reports that police can obtain any video from a Ring doorbell within 60 days is false. Ring will not release customer information in response to government demands without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us," said Ring. "Ring objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course. We are working with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office to ensure this is understood."

Emails obtained by Motherboard reveal the level of assistance that Ring goes to with law enforcement on the matter, including coaching on how to obtain footage and templates for footage requests.

Overall, the partnership is assumed to have a positive impact on the ability for the police to investigate crimes. Botti suggests "It lessens the work we have to do; maybe we have to knock on a few less doors to get the video."

In answering privacy concerns, Botti suggests the consumer's investment in the device negates that issue. "They chose to pay for a service that enables it to be viewed by either us or Ring. The consumer knows what they're getting into. If you're a good upstanding person who is doing things lawfully, nobody has concerns."

Macomb Community College Professor Chris Gilliard suggested the coaching by Amazon covered both how to do their jobs and how to promote Ring products. "Not coincidentally, those things overlapped quite a bit. That's really disturbing."

As part of the coaching, Ring suggests police raise awareness of their requests in the Neighbors app to promote the use of Ring and encourage more people to sign up, which in turn increases the number of cameras in use.

Ring sees the situation differently.

"To promote transparency, we encourage our law enforcement partners to share the details of their Ring partnership with their communities, as well as educate residents on how they can engage with police representatives on the Neighbors app," Ring told AppleInsider "Through these partnerships, we aim to open the lines of communication between community members and law enforcement to build stronger, safer communities."

Advocacy group Fight for the Future has previously called for the end of partnerships between local governments and police with Ring, under the accusation the firm is creating a giant and private surveillance system without regulatory oversight.

Updated on August 7 with statements from Ring provided to AppleInsider regarding the Motherboard report
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,214member
    Creepier and creepier 
    StrangeDaysMplsPcornchiplordjohnwhorfinlolliverdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 40
    If I have an indoor Ring Camera, does the same apply?
    netlinglolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 40
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,547member
    If you're a good upstanding person who is doing things lawfully, nobody has concerns."

    ...as a lawful citizen I can think of plenty of reasons I don’t want the police and government workers to have unfettered access to my home’s video footage. It doesn’t take much imagination. 

     "It lessens the work we have to do; maybe we have to knock on a few less doors to get the video." 

    ...why should a citizen’s right to privacy and discretion be secondary to making work easier for government workers?
    cornchipfly8lolliverchasmRayz2016dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 40
    GG1GG1 Posts: 276member
    If you buy a Ring doorbell but don't purchase the video storage capability (Ring Protection Plan), you cannot save video. Does that mean the video is still saved for use by law enforcement? In other words, once you buy one of these devices, have you been "assimilated," whether you buy video storage or not?

    Disclaimer: I have one doorbell with the cheapest storage plan, but I'm a bit wary with this latest change. I will most definitely not get an indoor camera, even if Ring says it won't be accessible to law enforcement. Remember the Nest - "nothing will change after the purchase" - Google.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 40
    Amazon is evil! Pure and simple! Like Facebook & Google... they have no moral center except what makes them money! Unfortunately, these companies believe that, if it's not explicitly illegal, then it is okay, regardless of the moral implications.
    My ex got me an Alexa puck for xmas several years ago... It was on for a short time, then I read the reviews and concerns... Now sitting in the garage gathering dust (not plugged in). I'll never have an Amazon, Facebook, Google... device in, or around my home.
    cornchiplolliverdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 40
    Yay!  More reasons to avoid Amazon!  As if I needed any more...
    cornchiplolliverchasmdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 40
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 529member
    ...why should a citizen’s right to privacy and discretion be secondary to making work easier for government workers?
    Because it is first? I think your constitution speaks clearly about it.
  • Reply 8 of 40
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,872administrator
    If I have an indoor Ring Camera, does the same apply?
    It appears, just the doorbell.
    chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 40
    These locks (and all IoT devices) are not on the list of approved door locks that my home insurance company has. To me, that is a good thing.
    They might be convenient but to me, they are just another attack vector.
    IoT devices have no place and never will have in my home.
  • Reply 10 of 40
    BxBornBxBorn Posts: 56member
    not sure I have all that much of a problem with this - I have Ring cameras outside of my house as a deterrent but also as a means to assist police should something happen so I can't see why others in the network wouldn't comply with the request if meant the arrest and/or prosecution of someone. Law Enforcement still has to go through channels to get the video and it doesn't appear to be a situation where 100% of all direct requests to Amazon will be fulfilled. If the courts reasonably believes that an individual has information that will lead to a convictions and that individual doesn't comply to testify on request the court can issue a subpoena if there is enough data to support the value of the testimony and likelihood to convict based on it. There are circumstances where even subpoena can't force the testimony but in 90%+ of cases you're going to testify. As far as overall Privacy goes isn't there an argument then that these outdoor camera's are violating the privacy of your neighbors and therefore should be banned? Unless you can contain the field of view to just your property you are more than likely picking up images from an adjacent property and not respecting their right to privacy - I actually informed my neighbors of my cameras and showed them what the cameras were picking up. No one had an issue and appreciated that I let them know...a couple actually bought their own once they saw it.
    edited August 6 SoundJudgmentdewmemuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 11 of 40
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,654member
    Like everyone else, this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not that I liked Amazon to begin with... 

    There are a couple of factors that likely affect the legality of this practice - first, the video is being taken of activity outside the home; historically the courts have viewed the right to privacy as being much more limited in regards to activities done in public view. Second, regardless of whether the video is stored in the cloud, on a local server at a business or on a home server, the police can obtain a subpoena that compels the release of the video. I suspect if they were investigating a crime at a home and noted a Ring doorbell cam they would quickly request the data regardless. 

    Even considering these points, it seems from reading this article that there is a very cozy relationship between Amazon and the police, with Amazon eagerly using it as an advertising opportunity. Wasn't Amazon also selling facial recognition services to law enforcement? I have to wonder if they're adding Ring video to their database...

    Edit: Does the Ring record video based on a motion sensor (i.e. whenever someone is in proximity?)

    Also, I'm positive there're some terms that no one reads in the fine print when they sign up, but if Amazon sent a notice to the consumer each time a video was released, would it change how people felt? 
    edited August 6 watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 40
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member
    Guys, just answer the door; live a little!
  • Reply 13 of 40
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,098member
    MplsP said:
    Like everyone else, this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not that I liked Amazon to begin with... 

    There are a couple of factors that likely affect the legality of this practice - first, the video is being taken of activity outside the home; historically the courts have viewed the right to privacy as being much more limited in regards to activities done in public view. Second, regardless of whether the video is stored in the cloud, on a local server at a business or on a home server, the police can obtain a subpoena that compels the release of the video. I suspect if they were investigating a crime at a home and noted a Ring doorbell cam they would quickly request the data regardless. 

    Even considering these points, it seems from reading this article that there is a very cozy relationship between Amazon and the police, with Amazon eagerly using it as an advertising opportunity. Wasn't Amazon also selling facial recognition services to law enforcement? I have to wonder if they're adding Ring video to their database...
    I read a story about this a few weeks back. Yes Amazon is actively courting a positive relationship with police agencies. Seems it has a much to do with marketing since police departments are promoting the Ring Doorbell specifically as a great neighborhood watch tool. 
    https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/orange-county/os-orlando-ring-doorbell-20180501-story.html

    FWIW I removed my Ring Doorbell Pro about a month ago and replace it with a Nest Hello. Yes it also records front door video but without a friendly training partnership with the police. Nest (Google) at least requires a legal and sufficiently narrow subpoena, and will notify users unless prevented by court order from doing so.  
    edited August 6 cornchipdysamoriamuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 40
    AppleInsider said:

    Public information officer for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Tony Botti advised that, if a request is declined by the homeowner, police can essentially "subpoena" the video from Amazon directly, ignoring the failed request completely. 
    Why is "subpoena" in quotes?  Are they "essentially" kinda-sorta following established constitutional law by getting something kinda like a subpoena, or are they actually getting a judge to Amazon to fulfill this request after appropriate judicial review?  The distinction is critical.  If it's a real subpoena, there's nothing to see here.  Anything that a corporation has access to must be turned over if they get a subpoena.  Everything pointed to Amazon having access to the video, so of course a judge can order them to turn it over.

    BxBorn explained it better than I did.  Perhaps he's a lawyer (I am not, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express--and took a few law courses.).
    edited August 6 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 40
    Ramcm7_Ramcm7_ Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    How does Ring compare to other video doorbell/outdoor camera companies?  Are the others any better on privacy?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 40
    This will cut into sales of these devices by criminals.  Imagine the "poor" murderer who gets convinced because his Ring video shows him returning home covered in blood.  I wonder if this has already been featured in a TV episode.

    I think I'll continue to not pay the monthly fee to have my Ring data uploaded to the cloud--just in case.
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 40
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,098member
    Ramcm7_ said:
    How does Ring compare to other video doorbell/outdoor camera companies?  Are the others any better on privacy?
    https://nest.com/legal/transparency-report/
    Nest won't release user data without a legal court order to do so. 
    https://nest.com/legal/privacy-statement-for-nest-products-and-services/

    https://www.arlo.com/eu/about/privacy-policy/
    Arlo's comes as a bit of surprise to me after reading it, particularly since Apple is actively promoting them. Arlo gathers additional data on their users from multiple sources and to be honest I've no idea why. 
    edited August 6
  • Reply 18 of 40
    These locks (and all IoT devices) are not on the list of approved door locks that my home insurance company has. To me, that is a good thing.
    They might be convenient but to me, they are just another attack vector.
    IoT devices have no place and never will have in my home.
    Which is good, because the Ring series of cameras aren't a physical lock at all. It is just an electronic peephole with a ringer attached. Insurance companies have no business evaluating them for security-lock coverage purposes.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 40
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 722editor
    If I have an indoor Ring Camera, does the same apply?
    I would think yes - the video portal probably doesn't distinguish between them on their end.
    hodarwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 40
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,656member
    I know people are concerned about their privacy, but the camera is outward facing. It is recording people who come to your door who do not have a reasonable expectation of any privacy being out in public on your property. The same is true for the average person walk or driving past your house. Why do you care, there are all kinds of camera facing the public and no one has pull out the pitch forks and demand it be stopped.

    The only issue would be if the police used it to monitor who was coming and going from your own home. If Amazon is in fact sharing this information with police I suspect a number or lawyers have view the legality of the action. The other thing, is Amazon sharing live video or the stored video. If you do not like this kind of cooperation remove device.
    hammeroftruthhodarmuthuk_vanalingam
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