FBI documents warned that owners of Amazon’s Ring and similar video doorbells can use the systems — which collect video footage sometimes used to investigate crimes — in order to watch police instead. The Verge reports: The Intercept spotted the files in the BlueLeaks data trove aggregated from law enforcement agencies. One 2019 analysis describes numerous ways police and the FBI could use Ring surveillance footage, but it also cites “new challenges” involving sensor- and camera-equipped smart home devices. Specifically, they can offer an early warning when officers are approaching a house to search it; give away officer locations in a standoff; or let the owner capture pictures of law enforcement, “presenting a risk to their present and future safety.”
These are partly hypothetical concerns. The standoff issue, for instance, was noted in a report about motion-activated panoramic cameras. But the FBI points to a 2017 incident where agents approached the home of someone with a video doorbell, seeking to search the premises. The resident wasn’t home but saw them approach by watching a remote video feed, then preemptively contacted his neighbor and landlord about the FBI’s approach. He may also have “been able to covertly monitor law enforcement activity” with the camera. This isn’t necessarily more information than a security camera would capture. But doorbells like the Ring or Google Nest Hello are pitched as more mainstream devices, and they’ve also created controversy around police use of the footage.
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