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Congress has concerns over Ring’s partnerships with police departments

Congress wants to know more about partnerships between Ring, a home security and smart home company owned by Amazon, and more than 400 local police departments across the country. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has written a letter to Ring asking the company to provide more details on these partnerships. 

The letter was written to Brian Huseman, Ring’s vice president of public policy, on Wednesday, February 19. The committee is asking Huseman to furnish more information into why Ring entered into these partnerships in the first place and exactly what kind of information Ring provides to police departments. 

The committee requested a list of all of Ring’s agreements with cities and law enforcement agencies, and wants to know which law enforcement agencies have access to Ring’s Neighbors Portal. The committee also wants to know all instances where law enforcement requested video footage from a Ring device, as well as details on the potential integration of facial-recognition tools. 

Ring has until March 4 to produce all of the documents and information from 2013 onward that the committee is requesting. The committee also required a briefing from Ring by February 27 on a variety of topics relating to the police partnerships.

“The subcommittee is seeking more information regarding why cities and law enforcement agencies enter into these agreements,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wrote in the letter. “The answer appears to be that Ring gives them access to a much wider system of surveillance than they could build themselves, and Ring allows law enforcement access to a network of surveillance cameras on private property without the expense to taxpayers of having to purchase, install, and monitor these cameras.”

The committee also said that Ring controls what cities and law enforcement agencies say about it. In one instance, Ring reportedly edited a police department’s press release on its use of Ring devices to remove the word “surveillance.” 

A Ring spokesperson told Digital Trends that “we are reviewing the letter and intend to respond.” 

In October, more than 30 civil rights groups aired their skepticism of Ring’s partnerships with local police departments, calling on Amazon to stop these partnerships. The groups said that Amazon has not been transparent in its plans to integrate facial-recognition software into its Ring cameras.

“Amazon Ring partnerships with police departments threaten civil liberties, privacy, and civil rights, and exist without oversight or accountability. Given its significant risks, no surveillance partnerships with Amazon Ring should have been established, or should be established in the future, without substantial community engagement and input, and elected official approval,” the letter read. 

In July, it was reported by Motherboard that Amazon struck up deals with local police departments to encourage people to buy its Ring security products in exchange for free Ring video doorbells and access to a special police-focused Ring portal.

A Ring spokesperson previously told Digital Trends that Ring partners with law enforcement agencies to make neighborhoods safer, and that the partnership allows the community to find out about crime and safety information.

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