Amazon Says It’s Considered Face Scanning in Ring Doorbells
Amazon has considered adding facial recognition technology to its Ring doorbell cameras, according to a letter to a U.S. senator defending its video-sharing partnerships with police.
The company told Sen. Ed Markey that facial recognition is a “contemplated, but unreleased feature” of its home security cameras but that there are no plans to coordinate that feature with its law enforcement partnerships.
Markey wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in September raising privacy and civil liberty concerns about Ring’s video-sharing agreements with police departments across the country.
Amazon’s Ring has created a massive face recognition surveillance network, easily accessible to hundreds of police departments.
Big Brother is watching — right at our front doors. https://t.co/WVfHup2oew
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 28, 2019
The Massachusetts Democrat also expressed alarm that Ring may be pursuing face-scanning technology after a patent application showed the company is exploring a system that could flag certain people as suspicious and automatically alert police.
Markey released Amazon’s responses on Tuesday.
Amazon’s initial response to Markey said Ring doesn’t currently offer facial recognition.
In a Nov. 1 follow-up, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, said that the company frequently innovates based on customer demand and that facial recognition is an increasingly common feature in cameras made by competitors such as Google’s Nest division.
“If our customers want these features in Ring security cameras, we will only release these features with thoughtful design including privacy, security, and user control,” Huseman wrote.
Markey’s questions about facial recognition were part of broader concerns that some lawmakers and civil liberties advocates have about Ring and its police partnerships.
The company noted that police aren’t allowed to seek recordings that are longer than 12 hours in duration or that cover a geographical area that is too specific or broad.
This stranger runs away as soon as he hears a “hello.”
Using two-way talk, Tracy was able to take action and with the video recording, she was able to notify the police immediately. pic.twitter.com/C4GEJ5xKOy
— Ring (@ring) November 20, 2019
But Amazon also said it doesn’t require law enforcement to delete a user’s video footage after a certain period.
Markey said Tuesday that Amazon is not doing enough to ensure that its products don’t run afoul of civil liberties.
“Connected doorbells are well on their way to becoming a mainstay of American households, and the lack of privacy and civil rights protections for innocent residents is nothing short of chilling,” he said in a statement.
“If you’re an adult walking your dog or a child playing on the sidewalk, you shouldn’t have to worry that Ring’s products are amassing footage of you and that law enforcement may hold that footage indefinitely or share that footage with any third parties,” he added.
More than 600 police departments have signed up to Ring’s network since last year and many say it is becoming a useful crime-fighting tool.
Chief Kevin Molis said he is Markey’s neighbor and has known him since the 1970s but disagrees with him about Ring.
“We consider it a valuable tool for public safety,” Molis said in an interview.
But staff attorney Mohammad Tajsar of the ACLU of Southern California said Amazon’s responses to Markey raise grave privacy concerns.
“Even if you don’t sell data, or provide data to law enforcement, you’re creating a mechanism whereby people can express latent biases and racism and classism in a portal that encourages it,” Tajsar said.amzn_assoc_placement = "adunit0";amzn_assoc_search_bar = "true";amzn_assoc_tracking_id = "inqdotnetusa-20";amzn_assoc_search_bar_position = "bottom";amzn_assoc_ad_mode = "search";amzn_assoc_ad_type = "smart";amzn_assoc_marketplace = "amazon";amzn_assoc_region = "US";amzn_assoc_title = "Shop Related Products";amzn_assoc_default_search_phrase = "ring";amzn_assoc_default_category = "All";amzn_assoc_linkid = "647561f20201288bf5ab7a7c6f41e8f8";
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