According to a letter Amazon sent to Congress earlier this month, Amazon’s smart doorbell company, Ring, has provided law enforcement with surveillance footage without the owners’ consent or a warrant 11 times this year.
The letter was made public by Sen. Ed Markey’s office on Wednesday, highlighting how Ring frequently makes its own “good-faith determinations” when it comes to submitting user data to the authorities in response to a police subpoena or an emergency request, sparking privacy and civil liberty concerns across the nation.
“We cannot accept this as inevitable in our country. Increasing law enforcement reliance on private surveillance creates a crisis of accountability, and I am particularly concerned that biometric surveillance could become central to the growing web of surveillance systems that Amazon and other powerful tech companies are responsible for,” Markey said in a statement.
Although the company requires police to fill out a special “emergency request form” to decide if there is an urgent need to bypass the normal law process, Ring “reserves the right to respond immediately to urgent law enforcement requests for information in cases involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person.” To this current date, Ring has partnered with 2,161 law enforcement agencies and 455 fire departments.
When asked for comment, a Ring spokesperson said the law “authorizes companies like Ring to provide information to government entities if the company believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person, such as a kidnapping or an attempted murder, requires disclosure without delay. Ring faithfully applies that legal standard.”
To this end, in each of the 11 cases this year, Amazon’s VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman confirmed Ring determined that the police requests met the imminent-danger threshold and provided the information “without delay.”
“It’s simply untrue that Ring gives anyone unfettered access to customer data or video, as we have repeatedly made clear to our customers and others,” the spokesperson added.
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