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American Lawmakers Launch Investigations Into Ring’s Police Deals

A U.S. Congressional subcommittee is now “pursuing a deeper understanding of how Ring’s partnerships with local and state law enforcement agencies mesh with the constitutional protections Americans enjoy against unbridled police surveillance,” reports Gizmodo:

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, is seeking to learn why, in more than 700 jurisdictions, police have signed contracts that surrender control over what city officials can say publicly about the Amazon-owned company… “In one instance, Ring is reported to have edited a police department’s press release to remove the word ‘surveillance,'” the letter says, citing a Gizmodo report from last fall.

But that’s just the beginning, reports Ars Technica:

Congress wants a list of every police deal Ring actually has, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy wrote in a letter (PDF) dated February 19. After that, the Subcommittee wants to know… well, basically everything. The request for information asks for documentation relating to “all instances in which a law enforcement agency has requested video footage from Ring,” as well as full lists of all third-party firms that get any access to Ring users’ personal information or video footage. Ring is also asked to send over copies of every privacy notice, terms of service, and law enforcement guideline it has ever had, as well as materials relating to its marketing practices and any potential future use of facial recognition. And last but not least, the letter requests, “All documents that Ring or Amazon has produced to state attorneys general, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, or Congress in response to investigations into Ring….”

The company in the fall pulled together a feel-good promotional video comprising images of children ringing Ring doorbells to trick-or-treat on Halloween. It is unclear if Ring sought consent to use any of the clearly visible images of the children or their parents shown in that video…

Ring has also faced pressure to describe its plans for future integration of facial recognition systems into its devices. While the company has stated repeatedly that it has no such integration, documents and video promotional materials obtained by reporters in the past several months show that the company is strongly looking into it for future iterations of the system…

The House letter gives Amazon a deadline of March 4 to respond with all the requested documentation.

Amazon responded by cutting the price of a Ring doorbell camera by $31 — and offering to also throw in one of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled “Echo Dot” smart speakers for free.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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