BOSTON — Amazon-owned doorbell camera company Ring is facing questions from a U.S. senator over its partnerships with police departments around the country.
Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent a letter Thursday to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos raising privacy and civil liberty concerns about Ring cameras that are capturing and storing footage of U.S. neighborhoods.
Markey is seeking more information from Bezos about Ring’s video-sharing agreements with law enforcement agencies. The lawmaker says he’s also alarmed that Ring may be pursuing facial recognition technology that could flag certain people as suspicious.
Ring says it’s reviewing the letter.
Many police agencies have said the partnerships with Ring’s crime-focused social network serve as a digital neighborhood watch. Critics complain it turns neighborhoods into places of constant surveillance and creates suspicion that falls heavier on minorities.
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More than 405 police forces nationwide have joined video-sharing partnerships with Ring, company officials said on Aug. 28..
Under the agreements with police, law enforcement can monitor this publicly shared information and videos. Police, through Ring, can then request a specific video from a homeowner’s cameras.
The doorbell-camera devices can stream real-time video to a user’s smartphone, tablet or desktop, allowing homeowners to see and talk to people on their doorsteps.
The impact is enhanced if an owner chooses to join Neighbors, an app developed by Ring that shares information among nearby residents, including the locations of their video or written posts. Neighbors operates as an open forum for people to ask one another about suspicious activities.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin, Jefferson Graham and Kelly Tyko,