It wasn’t long ago that you could walk down the street without being video recorded by someone’s doorbell. Not anymore. Now, as the popularity of the home security devices surge—more than 3 million U.S. homes will install them in 2019, according to estimates by Parks Associates—privacy concerns are also on the rise.
This week, more than 30 civil rights groups called on Ring, a smart home device company owned by Amazon, to end the more than 400 partnerships it has with police departments across the U.S.
Noting of the lack of oversight involved in the partnerships between Ring and the police agencies, an open letter from the privacy advocates cites the program’s ability to give law enforcement to access Ring owners’ video footage, without a warrant. In response, Ring, which makes video doorbells, security cameras, and other security products and was acquired by Amazon last year, says its mission is to “help make neighborhoods safer.”
The letter calls into question a number of factors regarding the partnerships Ring has formed with police departments. The main issues the organizations raise is a lack of privacy, the possibility of over-policing neighborhoods, and a possible rise in racial discrimination.
“With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely,” the letter says. It also notes that data stored by Ring is not encrypted, which poses a security concern. This, combined with the lack of oversight imposed by Ring, creates the potential for police departments—and others—to misuse the information collected by Ring devices, the group says. Advocacy organizations that signed the statement include the Center for Human Rights and Privacy, Fight for the Future, and RAICES.
In addition, the letter protests how the partnerships have lead police departments to promoting Ring and Amazon’s products. It discusses how police departments have displayed the devices at local events, effectively turning the government groups into marketing agencies. Ring has said it provides informational materials, but does not ask departments to promote the products, nor does it dictate what its partners say.
According to Ring, there is no ill intent in the police department partnerships. The company says some of the letter’s claims are “categorically false,” specifically that Amazon employees have access to Ring footage. “We have taken care to design these features in a way that keeps users in control and protects their privacy,” a Ring spokesperson said.
“All content submitted to our app is reviewed to ensure that it adheres to our community guidelines, including our policies against racial profiling and prohibiting hate speech or other forms of prejudice before it goes live on the platform,” a Ring spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Fortune.“We take this very seriously and have invested many resources, tools, and human power to ensure we uphold a standard of trust and civility.”
In August, Ring addressed similar concerns with its Neighbors app. In a statement, Ring founder Jamie Siminoff said that users have control over what users share with other parties and can deny requests from law enforcement agencies.
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