Amazon Gave Ring Camera Footage To Police Without Asking Users

ring doorbell

Technology giant Amazon has admitted to handing over Ring doorbell camera footage to law enforcement at least eleven times this year — without the owners’ permission or a search warrant.

Yesterday, Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts released the letter he received from Amazon after he questioned the video doorbell company’s surveillance practices back in June.

In the letter dated July 1, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, discloses that “so far this year, Ring has provided videos to law enforcement in response to an emergency request only 11 times.” In these instances, the camera footage was sent without the owner’s consent or a search warrant signed by a judge.

Huseman adds that Ring shared camera footage in emergency circumstances when there’s a belief that serious harm or death will result if the footage isn’t released immediately. Police request the data and the company then decides whether the request meets its standards of an emergency.

“In each instance, Ring made a good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person requiring disclosure of information without delay,” writes Huseman.

In such cases, Huseman says Ring “reserves the right to respond immediately to urgent law enforcement requests for information,” adding the company makes a determination as to when to share video footage without user consent based on information provided to it in an emergency request form and circumstances described by law enforcement.

This letter is the first time the company has confirmed that it has released data this way, reports Politico. The disclosure serves as a reminder that if an individual’s footage or data is under the control of another company, such as Amazon, they may have little to no say over whether law enforcement gets it.

police officer

In 2021, Amazon’s Ring sold more than 1.7 million camera doorbells. In the letter, Markey states that 2,161 law enforcement agencies are enrolled in Ring’s Neighbors app, a forum for residents to share suspicious videos captured by their home security cameras. That number represents a five-fold increase since November 2019, according to the senator’s office.

Markey has been concerned about Ring’s partnerships with law enforcement and privacy issues for years. “As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,” he says in a statement.

Update 7/14: After publication, a Ring spokesperson reached out with the following statement:

“It’s simply untrue that Ring gives anyone unfettered access to customer data or video, as we have repeatedly made clear to our customers and others. The law authorizes companies like Ring to provide information to government entities if the company believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person, such as a kidnapping or an attempted murder, requires disclosure without delay. Ring faithfully applies that legal standard.”

Image credits:Photos licensed via Depositphotos.