Ring will soon require law enforcement and fire departments to make video requests publicly through the Neighbors community app. It’s a big change from Ring’s previous policy, which allowed public agencies to make private requests directly to Ring users. The change takes place Monday, June 7th.
Update, 7/13/22: Since publishing this post, Ring has provided customer footage to police 11 times without consent.
In a blog post announcing the change, Ring states that public requests will increase transparency and accountability on its home security platform. The Amazon-owned company will only allow requests from verified public agencies (of which there are plenty) and requires these agencies to abide by a set of guidelines.
These guidelines state that law enforcement cannot use video requests to make public announcements or to request information related to “lawful activities, such as protests” (the company was criticized for helping LA police investigate BLM protestors earlier this year).
Requests for assistance must include information related to the investigation, plus public agency contact information and reference numbers. A 12-hour (or less) time frame must be included to prevent public agencies from receiving an excess of footage, and all public requests must include a geographic location within 0.5 square miles to narrow down the number of Ring users that can participate.
Interestingly, police may only request information related to an active investigation twice, and public video requests cannot be deleted or edited, though they may be marked as “resolved.”
Public video requests will show up in Ring users’ Neighbors feed, and new requests will be accompanied by a push notification. But you can turn these notifications off or hide all public video requests from your feed. Those who manually opted out of video requests in the past will not receive any notifications after this change occurs.
Ring’s new policy does not affect how the company deals with warrants, and it won’t slow the company’s ever-growing police partnerships list. But it may help Amazon curb the endless stream of privacy and civil rights-related criticism coming from the press, the public, and its employees, who nearly passed a proposal to investigate Ring’s contribution to racial violence during a shareholders meeting last week.