Police might be able to see throughout neighborhoods using Ring’s video doorbells, but that transparency doesn’t go both ways. In documents sent to police in Illinois, Amazon’s Ring unit instructs officers on exactly what law enforcement shouldn’t share with the public.
But through public documents and interviews with police, we’re able to explain exactly what those features are.
Ring has partnered with scores of police departments across the country, though the details of those relationships are often limited. For example, Ring still declines to provide the full number of police partnerships, leaving privacy advocates to figure out those numbers through public data requests. Privacy researcher Shreyas Gandlur released a map showing every Ring police partnership he could find, totaling 250 as of Aug. 19.
That’s not the only detail Ring and police are keeping secret. In email exchanges between Ring and the Bensenville, Illinois, police department in July, the Amazon-owned company — Amazon purchased Ring in 2018 for $839 million — detailed what tools should be kept confidential.
“Neighbors Portal back-end features should not be shared with the public, including the law enforcement portal on desktop view, the heat map, sample video request emails or the video request process itself as they often contain sensitive investigative information,” a Ring associate wrote to police, according to FOIA documents sent to Gandlur.
Bensenville police chief Daniel Schulze declined to comment and referred questions to Ring. A Ring spokesperson sent the following statement:
While Ring and police don’t share details about these tools, documents from FOIA requests and previous interviews with officers provide insight on these secretive features. Here’s what we know:
Law enforcement portal
The law enforcement portal is a special section of Ring’s Neighbors app that only police partnered with the company can access.
Neighbors is an app released by Ring in May 2018, advertised as a “digital neighborhood watch.” Residents can post videos of potential burglaries or crime alerts to warn their neighbors. Sometimes the clips can be quirky, showing things like animals running across people’s lawns….Read more>>