Washington, DC – Amazon’s smart-doorbell company Ring admitted in a letter to Congress this month that it has given security video footage to law enforcement officials 11 times this year without a warrant or consent from the owners of the camera.
The July 1 letter from Amazon Vice President of Public Policy Brian Huseman was the company’s response to questions from U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) in June about Ring’s relationship with law enforcement, The Hill reported.
Markey also asked parent-company Amazon to commit to policy reforms that included not permitting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to request recordings from Ring.
The senator further asked Amazon to promise not to incorporate voice recognition technology into its security products, The Hill reported.
In his response to Markey’s inquiry, Huseman said Ring had complied with the 11 requests for footage after making a “good-faith determination” about risk.
The letter said that under its policies, 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,” CNN reported.
Huseman explained in his letter that the company requires police to fill out a special “emergency request form” if there is an urgent need to bypass the normal law enforcement process.
He said that in the specific 11 cases this year when Ring has provided video to police, the company first determined that that the requests met the imminent-danger threshold and turned over the requested data “without delay,” CNN reported.
Huseman refused to agree to any of the senator’s additional requests in his letter, The Hill reported.
He also revealed that that Ring currently allows 2,161 police departments use its Neighbors app to issue alerts and request videos.
That was five times more law enforcement agencies than had access to the app in November of 2019, according to The Hill.
Markey wasn’t happy with the company’s response and released a statement to that effect.
“As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,” the statement read. “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 the statement.
Ring has defended its handing over security video footage to authorities without the permission of the camera’s owners, The Hill reported.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
The company did not clarify what qualified as the sort of situation where Ring would hand over footage to authorities but said the company had determined that the risk of death or serious physical injury required “disclosure of information without delay,” The Hill reported.