Hundreds of Police Departments Sending Data to Ring

Ring, the super popular Amazon doorbell that also video records all interactions, is receiving tons of real-time data from police departments. This data allows Ring to send notifications to their users about any 911 calls in the area and community crime in general according to contracts and documentation acquired and reported by NBCLX. Data privacy watchdogs and advocates are worried about the large amount of sensitive data being shared with Ring because they believe Ring could build a massive criminal database similar to Clearwater AI’s. Even more worrisome, civilian data collected by Ring will not be subject to government regulations because they are a private corporation. But how does Ring profit off of these notifications and partnership?

Well more alerts and notifications that something dangerous is happening around your house will make you more inclined to either stay home, where your Amazon devices like Alexa track your every move and use it for targeted advertising, or people attempt to beef up their security by purchasing more Ring products and cameras. Either way, Amazon the owners of Ring, are profiting greatly off this sense of fear. Ring promotes this sense of insecurity by collecting Computer Automated Dispatch (CAD) calls from police departments.

The CAD data is a computerized list of all 911 calls in the area, the officer dispatched to the call, and where and why the officer is reporting to that call. The CAD does not include specific names or addresses, but the shared data is specific enough that Ring can send targeted notifications of any small crimes locally to anybody that has the Ring app downloaded. You do not need to even own a ring to get these notifications, you just need the app. Ring’s partnership and collection of data with police departments has allowed them to profit and scale massively, but it is not a one way street. Police departments themselves are sharing civilian data to gain access to Ring’s giant network of surveillance cameras.

NBCLX obtained 27 contracts through public records requests between the Ring and police departments throughout the country. The records indicate that while several agencies refused their request, Ring asked for unique addresses and said the details on crime needed to be timely. The organization didn’t want details on all the violent crimes, but only a select number of killings, stabbings and robberies. Neither Ring nor the police are in violation of any rules or laws. Laws on public information and privacy laws require police departments to exchange and report data on crime. Data privacy advocates argue that is not the point though. Police departments are sharing massive amounts of data with Amazon without knowing what will happen to it in the long term, or even informing citizens that this data is being shared.

Ring being a private company who has collected all this data and information, is not held to the same standards or practices as law enforcement. Police cannot access someone’s ring videos or data without a court order. Ring on the other hand, does not have to maintain the same standards and practices for collecting and managing data. Anybody can send a public records request to a police department and get somewhat of an understanding of what is happening. Amazon is not legally obliged to do so, and a lot of their movements on this data collection remain in the dark. 

Ring states this partnership and data collection is to make neighborhoods safer through their alerts and notifications of crimes going on in the local area, but they are also looking to obtain as much data as possible. If you do not have a Ring device, do not download the app because most likely your information is being collected and shared without your consent.