Here's How Police Are Helping Amazon's Ring Collect Data About Your Neighborhood

Police are helping Ring, the video doorbell company Amazon runs, by providing real-time crime data, including information about 911 calls, in exchange for access to Ring networks, according to an NBCLX report. Privacy activists are concerned the relationship could help police create a crime database and would give Amazon more reasons to sell home cameras. Nothing in the relationship is against current laws, though.

NBCLX looked at 27 contracts between Ring and police departments, obtained through public records requests. Ring often asked for Computer Automated Dispatch (CAD) data, which is a list of 911 calls and data associated with them, like where a responding officer is going and what the reason is. The information does not include full names and addresses, but it can be so specific that Ring can issue live crime alerts through the Ring app, even if a person does not have a Ring device.

"Part of the reason Ring would benefit from your phone vibrating every time there's a 911 call in your neighborhood is to make you terrified," Matt Guariglia with the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation explained. He noted that the "more scared" a Ring user is in their home, the more likely they are to buy more monitoring equipment. However, Ring defended its use of "publicly available data" to create alerts as part of an effort to deliver "relevant and reliable crime and safety information to our neighbors."

Police departments often get access to Ring's camera networks, reports NBCLX. For example, the outlet discovered the Tampa Police Department was granted access to the Ring law enforcement portal, which lets officers contact camera owners for video evidence of crimes. "Privacy is important to us. So if there's a burglary call, it's not going to send the address to Ring, it's going to give them a one hundred block of where that happens," Tampa Deputy Chief Ruben Delgado told NBCLX, adding that it is a "crime-fighting tool" they can use to help solve crimes.

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In some areas, Ring has to find ways around a department's decision not to provide CAD data to create its alerts. The Miami police department was providing the data but is no longer doing so. In Dallas, the city would not provide CAD data at all, so Ring had to take crime information from the police department's public crime portal to make alerts.

Police and Ring are not doing anything illegal, but advocates are still not happy with the cooperation between departments and Amazon. Police still cannot access anyone's Ring videos without consent or court order. Ring can, though, but the company said CAD data is "in no way connected or attached to Ring videos or other posts and content shared on the Neighbors app."