CNET reviewed public documents from the Rolling Meadows Police Department in Illinois. Those revealed that police had access to heat maps of Ring video doorbell concentrations, and when zoomed in, the map would show light circles around individual locations. Police could also search for specific addresses to see nearby camera concentrations. The Rolling Meadows Police Department told CNET that it didn't use the heat map feature but that it could have shown them where Ring cameras were in certain areas.
The feature was removed in July, but CNET believes some departments may have had access for more than a year. In August, Ring revealed that 405 law enforcement partners use its Neighbors Portal, and according to CNET, Ring now partners with 631 law enforcement agencies in the US. It's unclear how many police departments may have had access to the map.
In a statement to CNET, a Ring spokesperson said:
"As previously stated, our video request feature does not give police access to the locations of devices. Ring is constantly working to improve our products and services and, earlier this year, we updated the video request process to no longer include any device density information. Previous iterations of the video request feature included approximate device density, and locations were obfuscated to protect user privacy. Zooming into areas would not provide actual device locations."
Amazon's close relationship with law enforcement has already been criticized. Last month, we learned that police can keep Ring video doorbell footage indefinitely once doorbell owners provide access to it, and Amazon has asked police to advertise Ring cameras.
Privacy advocates worry Amazon's relationship with police could encourage people to compromise their privacy or lead to a state of constant surveillance. While Ring doorbell owners have to choose to share footage with police, if police know who has a video doorbell, they may pressure those individuals to come forward.
Engadget has reached out to Ring for comment.