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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Do we still have privacy in our lives? Who might be watching

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In a letter to Congress earlier this month, Amazon alleged that Ring, a manufacturer of smart doorbells, had 11 times this year alone given surveillance footage to law enforcement without a warrant or the owners’ consent.

The disclosure highlights how much influence Amazon has over the data gathered by the doorbells’ cameras and microphones, as well as how closely linked it is to the nation’s thousands of law enforcement agencies.

The July 1 letter in reply to Sen. Ed Markey’s queries, which has been made public by his office on Wednesday, shows that Ring frequently makes its own good faith decisions of whether to provide law enforcement access to surveillance data in the absence of a warrant or the owner’s consent.

In accordance with its principles, Ring reserves the right to react instantly to urgent information demands from law enforcement in situations posing a serious risk to the life or physical safety of any person. If there is an urgent need to skip the regular law enforcement process, the corporation also needs police to complete a special “emergency request form.

Ring concluded that the police demands satisfied the standard for imminent threat in each of the 11 incidents this year, according to Amazon’s VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman, and gave the information without delay.

In Huseman’s letter, Ring claimed that 2,161 law enforcement organizations¬†as well as 455 fire departments¬†are partners with them and that they are able to request surveillance data from Ring doorbells.

Separately, the letter rejected Markey’s request that Ring cameras stop by default recording audio when they shoot the video and declined to promise that Ring will never use voice recognition technology in its doorbells.

As per a statement from Markey, “it has become increasingly difficult for the people to travel, gather, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded.” This is proven by his ongoing investigation into Amazon. “This cannot be considered as inevitable in our nation. A crisis of accountability results from law enforcement’s growing reliance on private surveillance, and I am particularly concerned that biometric surveillance could play an important role in the growing network of surveillance systems that Amazon and other major tech companies are responsible for.”

When asked about the law, a Ring spokesperson said “empowers companies like Ring to share the information with law enforcement agencies if they believe there is an urgent need to do so due to an emergency involving the threat of death or serious physical harm to any person, such as a kidnapping or an attempted murder. Ring supports that legal need.” The spokesperson continued, “As we have repeatedly made clear to our customers and others, it is simply untrue that Ring provides anyone unrestricted access to the information or video.

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