Amazon Gives Ring Doorbell Footage to Police without Warrant: Report

Amazon has admitted to handing over footage from customers’ Ring doorbells to police in the U.S. 11 times so far this year alone — reports The Intercept.

The company’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, divulged the information in a letter to Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., earlier this month. Huseman was responding to an earlier request from Markey probing into Ring’s historically cozy relationship with law enforcement.

Ring openly publicizes its policy of surrendering audio-visual surveillance data from its products to policing agencies if the owner consents or a search warrant is served. However, none of the 11 instances in question fulfilled either condition.

Instead, Amazon’s home security subsidiary turned over footage in each of the cases due to another policy whereby it reserves the right to supply police with user data in “emergencies.” Ring defines the term as “cases involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person,” but Huseman did not say exactly what warranted its cooperation with authorities in any of these cases.

“Ring makes a good-faith determination whether the request meets the well-known standard,” the Amazon VP said. These “good-faith determinations” have led to Ring sharing footage from customers’ Ring cameras with the police at least 11 times this year alone.

“I’m deeply concerned to learn that the company has repeatedly disclosed users’ recordings to law enforcement without requiring the users’ permission,” said Senator Markey.

The Senator had also asked Amazon to comply with several suggested policy changes in his original letter. These included not accepting financial contributions from policing agencies, not allowing immigration enforcement agencies to request Ring recordings, and never participating in police sting operations.

Amazon has unequivocally refused to permanently enforce any of the proposed changes. This, combined with the revelation of Ring’s casual data-sharing with police, raises several concerns over user privacy.

In addition to the inherent risks and occasional security vulnerabilities of using an internet-connected device for their front door, Ring users should apparently also worry about Amazon sharing their footage with police in “emergency” situations.

Fortunately, concerned Ring owners can prevent unauthorized and warrantless sharing of their doorbell footage by enabling end-to-end encryption. Interestingly, Ring ships all of its products with end-to-end encryption disabled by default.