In a recent blog post, Amazon-owned company Ring announced that it will no longer allow police to request users' doorbell video footage through its neighborhood watch app. The company plans to discontinue its "Request for Assistance" tool, which previously allowed law enforcement to submit requests for users' footage in their communities. However, public safety agencies like fire and police departments can still use the Neighbors app to share safety tips, updates, and community events.
This move comes after Ring made police requests for user footage public in its Neighbors app in 2021. Previously, law enforcement could privately message users to request clips from their smart doorbell cameras. It's important to note that police can still obtain Ring video footage using a search warrant or subpoena. Additionally, Ring may provide footage directly to law enforcement in cases involving imminent danger or serious physical injury.
Ring, known for its connected doorbell devices, has faced controversy and privacy concerns due to its partnerships with hundreds of police departments across the U.S. Privacy advocates argue that the program and Ring's Neighbors app have increased the risk of racial profiling and turned residents into informants without sufficient safeguards on how law enforcement can use the material.
Ring's former CEO, Jamie Siminoff, previously touted the features as a public safety tool that would benefit communities. However, Elizabeth Hamren, a former executive at Microsoft and Discord, replaced Siminoff as CEO last year.
In the blog post, Ring also announced updates to the Neighbors app, including a new post category called "Ring Moments" that expands the content beyond crime and safety. The app will also feature a "Best of Ring" tool, showcasing a rotating selection of top videos.
Overall, Ring's decision to discontinue the "Request for Assistance" tool reflects a shift in its approach to user privacy and police partnerships. While public safety agencies can still utilize the Neighbors app, the company is making changes to broaden the app's content and improve user experience.