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.), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today, July 13, released the latest findings from his probe into Amazon doorbell company Ring.
The findings highlight the close relationship between Ring and law enforcement, including the proliferation of policing agencies on the Ring platform. In response to Senator Markey’s June letter, Ring reported a more than five-fold increase in law enforcement partnerships on its platform since November 2019. Ring further revealed that Ring has provided law enforcement with user footage through a process that does not require user’s consent – under a so-called “emergency circumstance exception” – 11 times so far this year.
“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,” said Senator Markey. “We cannot accept this as inevitable in our country. Increasing law enforcement reliance on private surveillance creates a crisis of accountability, and I am particularly concerned that biometric surveillance could become central to the growing web of surveillance systems that Amazon and other powerful tech companies are responsible for. I will continue to exercise oversight of these harmful corporate practices. In the meantime, Congress must pass the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to stop law enforcement from accessing sensitive information about our faces, voices, and bodies.”
In response to questions raised in Senator Markey’s June letter, Ring:
- Refused to commit to not incorporating voice recognition technology in its products. In a previous letter to Senator Markey, Ring refused to commit to not incorporating facial recognition technology in its products.
- Reported 2,161 law enforcement agencies on its Neighbors Public Safety Service (NPSS), a platform on which participating agencies can request footage from Ring users. This represents a more than five-fold increase in law enforcement partnerships with Ring since November 2019.
- Disclosed it has provided videos to law enforcement in response to an emergency request, through a process that does not require the consent of the device owner, 11 times this year.
- Stated that only police and fire departments are currently on NPSS, despite their commitment to actively recruit public health departments, animal services, and agencies that primarily address homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health onto Ring’s platform.
- Failed to clarify the distance from which Ring products can capture audio recordings.
- Refused to commit to eliminate Ring doorbells’ default setting of automatically recording audio.
- Refused to commit to make end-to-end encryption the default storage option for consumers.
Introduced by Senators Markey and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), alongside Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would prohibit use of biometric technology by federal agencies and condition federal grant funding to state and local entities on moratoria on the use of biometric technology. Critically, the biometric surveillance moratoria would cover information derived from a privately operated biometric surveillance system.
A copy of the full response from Ring can be found HERE.