Amazon, Law Enforcement Joining Forces To Turn Your Front Door Into An Integral Part Of The Surveillance State

Posted on Tuesday, 11th June 2019 @ 06:33 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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Amazon wants you to be part of its dish network. Yes, it’s a play on words (and not a good one!). This network springs from Amazon’s Ring doorbell — the doorbell with a camera inside and a cozy relationship with law enforcement! What are your neighbors and strangers up to? Give the dirt to law enforcement and trust their better judgment!

Good times await those who find themselves looking dark or suspicious (but also suspicious because they’re dark) in front of a Ring doorbell. Have you ever wanted to be an internet celebrity, with or without your permission? Ring has you covered.

Amazon’s home surveillance company Ring is using video captured by its doorbell cameras in Facebook advertisements that ask users to identify and call the cops on a woman whom local police say is a suspected thief.

In the video, the woman’s face is clearly visible and there is no obvious criminal activity taking place. The Facebook post shows her passing between two cars. She pulls the door handle of one of the cars, but it is locked.

The video freezes on a still of the woman’s face from two different angles: “If you recognize this woman, please contact the Mountain View Police Department … please share with your neighbors,” text superimposed on the video says. In a post alongside the video, Ring urges residents of Mountain View, California to contact the police department if they recognize her…

Hmmm. I guess that’s not so much “inadvertent influencer” as it is “protagonist in a Philip K. Dick novel.” A private company, “shooting” footage using consumer products, is pitching Ring to your friends and neighbors with (possibly) one of your friends and neighbors. FIRST ONE TO CALL THE COPS WINS.

“Our township is now entirely covered by cameras,” said Captain Vincent Kerney, detective bureau commander of the Bloomfield Police Department. “Every area of town we have, there are some Ring cameras.”

Or not. YOU DON’T EVEN NEED TO CALL THE COPS. Amazon is way ahead of you. Cameras on doorbells + suspicious persons = cops just showing up and asking/demanding the footage you’ve collected.

Some police departments do more than just ask. Police in Indiana, New Jersey, California and other states have offered discounts for Ring cameras, sometimes up to $125. In some cases, those discounts come from taxpayer money.

[…]

In April, the city of Hammond, Indiana, announced it had $37,500 in funds to subsidize Ring devices — half of which came from Ring. The other $18,750 came from the city, said Steve Kellogg, Hammond police’s public information officer.

The city had 500 cameras, and in about a week, they were all sold. The city government ran more discounted programs, Kellogg said, putting out more than 600 Ring cameras in the city.

“There will be more cameras on the streets,” Kellogg said. “It’s really a no-brainer.”

Bribes subsidies are cool. But have you tried making people feel bad because they’re helping bad guys get away? It works. And it’s free.

When people in the Neighbors app aren’t being responsive, police will take to the streets and start knocking on doors asking for footage in person. People are a lot more cooperative when an officer is at their doorsteps asking for Ring footage, he said. Civil advocates argue that people don’t really have a choice.

“You change how you drive when you see a cop driving next to you. What if a cop shows up at your door and asks you for something?” [ACLU staff attorney Mohammad] Tajsar said. “Even if you’re the biggest civil libertarian, you will feel compelled to turn that footage over.”

Law enforcement requests are easy to reject in theory. In person, they’re a bit more difficult. But this is the ecosystem Amazon is building. Most of us still associate Amazon with free shipping and VOD, but the company really wants a piece of the government action. Whatever it hasn’t tied up in hosting and storage, it’s looking to collect via surveillance tech. Amazon is selling as much facial recognition software as it can to law enforcement agencies — despite recent controversies — and now it’s hoping its home products will attract more subsidized deployments. Local law enforcement provides the public with cheap or free doorbell cameras and swings by for the footage whenever needed. Who isn’t going to feel obligated to hand this over to the cops when they come asking?

As the EFF’s Dave Maass points out, if cops wanted to outfit a ton of homes with surveillance cameras they could access at any time, there would be some pushback. But frame it as a giveaway with an eye on home security, and people will gladly sign up to turn Everytown, USA into London.

Both Amazon and law enforcement make it clear no one is obligated to turn their front doors into tools of the surveillance state. Amazon’s end user agreement does not require users hand over footage to officers. But put a few officers on a customer’s doorstep and the calculus of consent changes. How many Americans are going to choose their own doorstep to die on in a civil liberties battle with cops over footage of suspicious people/vehicles possibly collected by the private company’s camera they have aimed at the street?

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I thought that after writing two articles about the dangers of purchasing Ring doorbells, there could not possibly be anything else to warn people about, but boy was I mistaken. Big Brother has found a new way to spread fear and paranoia to neighborhoods. Besides using the obvious, like equipping homes with facial recognition doorbells and creating neighborhood watchlists, Ring is taking it up a notch.

Recently, a patent application from Amazon became public that would pair face surveillance — like Rekognition, the product that the company is aggressively marketing to police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — with Ring, a doorbell camera company that Amazon bought earlier this year.

Earlier this year, I reported that Amazon’s spying Ring doorbells are being installed everywhere and how everyone’s privacy is at stake.But a recent CNN article revealed that Amazon wants to turn homeowners doorbells into facial recognition devices using their Rekogntion software.”An Amazon patent application which was made public on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, describes how a network of cameras could work together with facial recognition technology to identify people.”

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