In full transparency, the following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey, who was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat. (stock photo)
WASHINGTON DC – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today, June 14, sent a letter to Amazon, the parent company of Ring, to address ongoing issues related to privacy violations and data sharing with police departments.
In the letter, Senator Markey requests that Amazon provide a public update on the steps Ring has taken to remove private policing agencies from its Neighbors Public Safety Service (NPSS), reduce the potential for its products to be misused in harmful ways, and protect individuals’ right to privacy.
The letter marks the most recent Ring oversight action from Senator Markey, who has successfully pressured the video surveillance company to make changes to its policies to address over-policing, surveillance, and bias.
“[Ring’s] surveillance system threatens the public in ways that go far beyond abstract privacy invasion: individuals may use Ring devices’ audio recordings to facilitate blackmail, stalking, and other damaging practices,” wrote Senator Markey. “As Ring products capture significant amounts of audio on private and public property adjacent to dwellings with Ring doorbells—including recordings of conversations that people reasonably expect to be private— the public’s right to assemble, move, and converse without being tracked is at risk.”
You can read the letter HERE.
Senator Markey’s questions for Amazon Chief Executive Andrew Jassy include:
- To the best of Ring’s knowledge, how far away can Ring products capture audio?
- Will Ring commit to eliminating Ring doorbells’ default setting of automatically recording audio when video is recorded? If no, why not?
- Will Ring commit to never incorporating voice recognition technology into its products? If no, why not?
- Ring has committed to “try to onboard” non-law enforcement agencies onto the NPSS platform in order to combat over-policing. Please detail how many of each of the following entities use NPSS:
- Police departments
- Fire departments
- Public health agencies
- Animal services
- Agencies that primarily address homelessness, drug addiction, or mental health
- Ring has “placed a moratorium” on onboarding private policing agencies onto NPSS.
- Please identify all the private agencies currently on NPSS.
- Will Ring commit to extending this “moratorium” into an indefinite ban on all private policing agencies from NPSS? If no, why not?
In 2019, Senator Markey sent two letters to Amazon, raising concerns that the integration of Ring’s cameras with law enforcement could create a surveillance network that contributes to invasive policing. Senator Markey called on Ring to launch a proactive review of its engagement with police in consultation with outside experts. Subsequently, Ring partnered with the Policing Project at New York University School of Law to conduct an audit related to over-policing, surveillance, and bias associated with Ring’s products. Responses from Amazon to Senator Markey’s first and second letters can be found HERE (September 2019) and HERE (November 2019).
Ring has since adopted measures that work to address Senator Markey’s concerns, including:
- Updating its consent prompt to express more clearly that users can decide whether to share footage.
- Committing to placing a moratorium on recruiting police departments onto the Neighbors Public Service Portal (the platform for requesting user footage); ceasing donations to policing agencies; and ending the practice of actively bringing incidents posted on its social network to law enforcement.
- Committing to addressing the way its platform can amplify bias by narrowing the types of incidents users can post about on their social network and suspending or banning users with a history of problematic content.