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Amazon Is Telling Police Departments What To Say About Its Ring Surveillance Cameras

Amazon isn’t just partnering with hundreds of America’s police departments. They’re also “directing the departments’ press releases, social media posts and comments on public posts,” according to the Guardian:

Ring says the program gives police more resources to solve crimes, while critics fear the company is quietly building up a for-profit private surveillance network. Ring’s power over police departments’ communications with the citizens they serve is just the latest question about the company’s operations. Andrew Ferguson, a law professor and the author of The Rise of Big Data Policing said there has been a rise of tech company influence on police work over the past decade, but shaping marketing language within police departments represents a new level of “distortion of public safety rule”.

“Police should not have dual loyalty to a private company and the public — their loyalty should be to the public,” he said. “Any sort of blurring of that line causes us to question that loyalty….”

Advocates fear that the cameras will allow police access to surveillance footage while bypassing the public process to approve more traditional security cameras. They have pointed out that contracts between police and Ring often face little public scrutiny and experts have raised concerns over requests from Ring to get access to police department’s computer-aided dispatch feeds. Advocates have also questioned how comfortable users feel in denying law enforcement requests.

When one Kansas police department announced their partnership with Ring, Amazon “sent the department a press release template and noted the final communique would have to be approved by Ring before release,” according to the article. And for one police department in Georgia, Amazon’s Ring “heavily edited the press release about the program,” removing a sentence about their $15,920 donation of video doorbells and the fact that Amazon would even help install them in homes. “Ring also changed wording from the police department that said the department ‘will be able to access videos submitted by subscribers of Ring’ to say the department will ‘join existing crime and safety conversations with local residents’.”

CNET also reports that Amazon “spent more than a year offering discounts and applying peer pressure with constant reminders and emails to convince officers to sign up…. When police didn’t respond, Ring would follow up by noting neighboring law enforcement agencies that have joined, pushing for the Chula Vista police to join them.”


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