Amazon's Ring has teamed up with over 2,000 police and fire departments

Partnerships exploded in 2020 despite privacy concerns.

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SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND - AUGUST 28: A doorbell device with a built-in camera made by home security company Ring is seen on August 28, 2019 in Silver Spring, Maryland. These devices allow users to see video footage of who is at their front door when the bell is pressed or when motion activates the camera. According to reports, Ring has made video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them access to camera footage with the homeowners’ permission in what the company calls the nation’s 'new neighborhood watch.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ring’s police collaborations didn’t slow down in 2020 despite controversies — if anything, they ramped up. The Financial Times reports that the Amazon-owned smart home security brand now has 2,014 police and fire department partnerships in the US, with 1,189 of them added in 2020. Montana and Wyoming are the only two states where Ring doesn’t have some kind of alliance.

Those departments are making use of the team-ups, too. Ring said that departments requested videos for over 22,335 incidents in 2020. There wasn’t comparable 2019 data, but some first responders were busier than others. Milwaukee police, for instance, requested videos for 431 incidents just in the second half of 2020 due to a high level of homicides.

While users gained more control over Ring video sharing in 2020 and just recently got end-to-end encryption, some of the privacy issues with these partnerships remained the same. Just because you’re comfortable with sharing videos doesn’t mean you’re in the clear — the Electronic Frontier Foundation told FT that neighbors and passers-by might be caught on camera without granting consent. This amounted to a “massive and unchallenged” surveillance network, according to the EFF.

If there’s a consolation, it’s that Ring isn’t simply handing over data without question. The company only handed over data 57 percent of the time versus 68 percent in 2019. That ratio is likely to fluctuate due to the very nature of incidents, but it’s evident Ring will say “no” if it feels a request is too vague or otherwise goes too far.

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