police officer typing on laptop-police and ring partnership

Security specialist Ring has a simple mission statement: to make your neighborhood safer by helping to reduce crime.

How has Ring managed to do that up until now, then?

Well, since the debut of Ring’s Video Doorbell back in 2013 on Shark Tank, the company has gone through a huge number of changes, but security has always remained the core focus.

In 2015, Ring’s first foray with police partnerships took place in Wilshire Park, LA. The scheme, in line with the LAPD, saw the installation of video doorbells in just 10% of neighborhood homes contributing to a drop in burglary rate of over 50%.

One of the many companies Amazon has purchased as it continues to dominate home automation, the Ring product range is now broader and deeper than ever before. Giving you the tools to create a Ring of Security around your home, you can get everything from the Ring Doorbell Pro through to the Ring Security System.

So what’s all this news about a police partnership happening?

How will this affect you and why should you even care?

Ring and Police Partnership In Brief

Ring announced last week that they are now working with 405 US police departments allowing police to:

  • Post vital safety information on the Neighbors app
  • View and comment on public posts to any Ring portal
  • Submit requests for video footage to help with ongoing investigations

Police will not get access to devices or user account information. Police do not have direct access to users when requesting video footage either.

Ring has released a map of all participating neighborhoods right here after months of trying to withhold exact details of this partnership with police.

So far so good?

Not according to privacy campaigners who describe it as a “widespread CCTV network” with diverse and significant privacy and civil rights ramifications.

Before we look at the potential downside, though, a glimpse at how this new partnership will pan out.

For Amazon, they’ll get a huge boost in their efforts to continue selling Ring security devices while the police gain access to a vast surveillance network.

What’s in it for you, though?

How Does The Partnership Work?

Ring launched Neighbors app in May 2018. This neighborhood watch app serves up real-time local crime information.

From sharing footage of package thefts to alerting neighbors of suspicious movement, the app is much like a social media platform.

Police use the Neighbors Portal tool in-app so they can post pertinent information and also to request video recorded by Ring security cameras in the area.

Stripped to its bare bones, this partnership is all about data so why should this concern you?

Is This Partnership Worth Worrying About?

Whether or not this type of partnership bothers you depends entirely on your stance concerning always-on tech that’s watching and listening around the clock.

For many people, this simply does not represent a meaningful concern.

For others, there are several flash points that these partnerships raise that are worth touching upon:

  • These partnerships have been shrouded in secrecy
  • City money is subsidizing Amazon products
  • Police are effectively selling Ring products
  • Your Ring camera might be on a map the police have in Neighbors Portal
  • Amazon experts coach police into coercing users to comply with requests for footage
  • Possible racial profiling in-app

You might very well glance at these “concerns” and ask “So what?” in response to every one. If that’s the way you feel, you might consider this whole Ring and police partnership deal a non-event.

We’ll look now at some of the most common issues flagged by opponents of this partnership starting with the level of secrecy involved.

Concern # 1: These partnerships are shrouded in secrecy

It’s no surprise that Amazon was able to fly under the radar with these partnerships cementing hundreds of them before being outed by journalists and civil liberty advocates. We say this because the company writes press releases and statements that are issues by local government.

So, Amazon has been controlling the conversation and, before we know it, suddenly a scheme like this is fully operational.

Concern # 2: City money is subsidizing Amazon products

Just as there was a lack of transparency about these partnerships from the beginning, there’s an equally troubling suggestion that some municipalities are actually paying Amazon $100,000 to reduce the costs of Ring cameras.

Cities are also promoting Ring products.

The key here is that consumers should be aware of these relationships.

Concern # 3: Police are effectively selling Ring products

Underpinning these partnerships is a question that needs asking…

Are the police telling you that you should add a smart doorbell because you’re in genuine danger, or is Amazon encouraging them to make a sale?

When there’s a relationship like this in place, it becomes more difficult for people to trust the safety tips that come from the police. Is this advice genuine or purely an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear conducive to selling more security devices?

These are not questions we can answer for you but they are certainly well worth raising. As with all aspects of this issue, you should look at the whole picture before forming any judgments.

Concern # 4: Your Ring camera might be on a map the police have in Neighbors Portal

With the Neighbors Portal, police can see where all the Ring cameras in town are.

Cities have also asked police to provide lists of customers of surveillance cameras as part of taxpayer-funded discount programs.

Concern # 5: Amazon experts are coaching police to coerce users to comply with requests for footage

Large networks of cameras actively promoted by police with footage stored by a private camera was something always liable to cause tension.

Ring anticipated this and provided police departments with a range of scripts including:

  • Scripted responses to questions from the public
  • Requests for video footage
  • Templatized social media commentary

Concern # 6: Possible racial profiling in-app

Another Motherboard report points out some issues with racial profiling on the Neighbors app central to these partnerships.

Final Word

Well, depending on your stance regarding data, security, and this area of privacy, this Ring/police partnership might be great news or cause for concern.

You should bear in mind that this is all police can do:

  • Post vital safety information on the Neighbors app
  • View and comment on public posts to any Ring portal
  • Submit requests for video footage to help with ongoing investigations

Here at SmartHome, we’re not really concerned about the privacy angle too much. We feel that the more of these cameras present in a neighborhood, the more safe that neighborhood will be.

If the police in your area are already teaming up with Ring and you don’t particularly like the idea, you won’t have to release any footage you’re not happy releasing. Drop us a line and let us know if you don’t view these partnerships positively. Why not?

Bookmark our site for all the latest smart home news. We have a very busy month in the works and will be bringing you the best content daily, so come back soon!

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