Ring, the company behind the wildly popular doorbell cameras, announced Wednesday that it would no longer share its footage with police departments after activists raised privacy concerns.
The Amazon-owned company did not provide a reason for its decision, but it is seen as an attempt to allay fears of constant surveillance.
In a blog post Wednesday, Ring said it will discontinue its “Request for Assistance” tool, which allows police departments and other public safety agencies to request and receive video captured by its doorbell cameras through Ring's Neighbors app.
The new policy comes into effect this week.
A Ring doorbell camera is seen outside a home. Starting this week, the camera footage will no longer be passed on to the police upon request
Judy Kline is seen with a hammer in front of the Suarez family home in St. Louis, Missouri. Kline was eventually arrested for threatening the family
Fatima Suarez said the abuse in their home had been going on for a year, as Judy Kline (pictured), a woman with whom they had previously had no contact, would frequently come to the door, damage property and steal their mail
Eric Kuhn, the head of Neighbors, said police will still be able to share information with the community through public posts on the Neighbors app.
Police and other agencies can continue to use the app to “share helpful safety tips, updates and community events,” Kuhn said.
However, you cannot request the footage through the app.
The decision is likely to disappoint those who have been able to catch criminals and stop abuse thanks to Ring cameras – although they can still voluntarily hand over the footage to police, although the company will not do so.
Last year, the Suarez family in St. Louis filed charges against their neighbor, Judy Kline, after she was filmed on a doorbell camera repeatedly threatening the Mexican-American family and wielding a hammer.
Fatima Suarez said the abuse had been going on for a year as Kline, a woman with whom they had no prior contact, frequently came to the door, damaged property and stole their mail.
Her Ring camera video eventually caught Kline in the act shouting racist remarks at the Suárez family.
Doorbell recordings show an attack by an ex-convict on three women in Philadelphia in June 2022. Thanks to the recordings, Malcolm White was tracked down and arrested
A woman in Florida is caught on camera stealing Amazon packages from people's front doors
The update is the latest restriction Ring has placed on police activity in the Neighbors app after privacy watchdogs raised concerns about the company's relationships with police departments across the country.
Critics have emphasized that the proliferation of these relationships — and the ability of users to report what they see as suspicious behavior — can turn neighborhoods into a place of constant surveillance and lead to more cases of racial profiling.
To increase transparency, Ring changed its policy in 2021 to make police inquiries publicly visible through its Neighbors app.
Previously, law enforcement could send private emails to ring owners who lived near an area where an ongoing investigation was taking place, requesting video footage.
“Now Ring will hopefully get out of the business of passing casual and unauthorized police requests for footage to its users entirely,” said Matthew Guariglia, a senior policy analyst at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Law enforcement can still access videos with a search warrant.
Doorbell footage helped track down a red Toyota (pictured above) driven by Romeo Nance in Joliet, Illinois last weekend. Nance shot eight people and wounded a ninth
Ring also reserves the right to share footage without user consent in certain circumstances.
In mid-2022, Ring announced that the company had turned over 11 videos to the police that year without notifying users due to “urgent or urgent” circumstances, one of the categories that allow the company to release videos without the permission of the Share ownership.
However, Guariglia of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said the group remains skeptical about the police and company's ability to determine what is and is not an emergency.
Last summer, Ring agreed to pay $5.8 million to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that the company gave employees and contractors access to user videos.
Additionally, the agency said Ring had inadequate security practices that allowed hackers to control consumer accounts and cameras.
The company disagrees with these claims.