Big Tech Admits To Spying On Behalf Of The State

( Amazon’s smart doorbell company, Ring, admitted in a letter last month that it provided surveillance footage to law enforcement without a warrant or the consent of the Ring customers eleven times in the last year alone.

The July 1 letter, made public last Wednesday, was in response to questions from Democrat Senator Ed Markey. Ring admitted that, in the absence of a warrant, the company makes “good-faith determinations” on whether or not to provide the doorbell camera data to law enforcement without gaining the consent of the smart doorbell owners.

Amazon’s Vice President of Public Policy, Brian Huseman, wrote in the letter that Amazon Ring’s policies state that the company “reserves the right to respond immediately to urgent law enforcement requests for information in cases involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person.”

The company requires police to submit an “emergency request form” if police believe there is an urgent reason to bypass the normal process, the letter explained.

According to Huseman, in each of the eleven cases this year, Ring determined that the police requests did meet the imminent-danger threshold and the footage was provided “without delay.”

Huseman wrote that Ring is currently partnered with 2,161 law enforcement agencies and 455 fire departments nationwide that can request surveillance footage from Ring doorbells.

According to Senator Markey’s office, the number of law enforcement agencies partnered with Ring is five times what it was in November 2019.

In his letter, Huseman declined to rule out the possibility that Ring would use voice recognition technology in its smart doorbells. He also rejected Markey’s request that the camera’s default setting is to stop recording audio when the video footage is taken.

In a statement last Wednesday, Senator Markey said it is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to avoid being tracked and recorded while in public. Saying law enforcement’s reliance on private surveillance “creates a crisis of accountability,” Markey expressed concern about “the growing web of surveillance systems that Amazon and other powerful tech companies are responsible for.”