U.S. Police to Pilot Amazon Ring Live-Streaming Program

By Bill Toulas / November 4, 2020

The U.S. Police working with Amazon Ring networks across the country isn’t anything new. We have discussed the dire consequences and privacy breach potential that this collaboration could have, and we know that there are more than a thousand local police departments in the United States which have established footage-sharing partnerships with Ring users.

Unfortunately, the whole situation is gradually entering the next phase, which is to send a live stream to police surveillance centers. According to a newly announced 45-day pilot program, residents and owners of Amazon Ring cameras in Jackson, Mississippi, who are willing to take part in this large-scale test, will apply a small patch, and their feed will go straight to the police’s “Real Time Crime Center.”

Ring cameras are basically front-door smart cams, so they are pointed to the road. Whatever happens in a neighborhood could be recorded by these cams, as there are millions of them out there. It would be economically impossible for the police to cover the cost of installing such large numbers of HD cams out there, and people would complain about the surveillance aspect. With Ring, though, nobody raises a voice against it since it’s seen as a smart home product and not a mass surveillance tool.

Mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, has stated that this will happen only with citizens and businesses that accept their Ring cams to be used as “spy” cams and that access to the device’s live feed will only be available when crimes occur in those areas. So, this pilot program will take place with the city council’s approval, who is looking for low-cost ways to deal with a rising number of homicides in the area.

In August 2020, Jackson city banned the local police department from using facial recognition tech to identify people in public, so the city showed that it values its citizens’ privacy and cares to stop invasive surveillance. However, the use of Ring cams isn’t matching this previous decision, and even if it comes with several guarantees and abuse-prevention safeguards, it still involves an intrinsic risk of breaching the privacy of innocent people.

Having access to a live Amazon Ring video feed means being able to tell who passes from where, when someone takes out the garbage, walks the dog, delivers parcels, etc. It’s essentially a move that could undermine civil liberty, but it’s up to the community to decide if they’re willing to sacrifice their freedom for an upgraded sense of safety.

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