Amazon's Free Doorbell Cameras Only Cost Law Enforcement Agencies Their Dignity And Autonomy

from the edging-even-closer-to-midnight-on-the-late-stage-capitalism-doomsday-clock dept

Amazon isn’t just handing out cheap/free doorbell surveillance cameras to cops. It’s tying them into contracts that require government agency recipients return the favor by publicizing Amazon’s Ring doorbells and running their PR responses through the online retailer. That’s according to documents obtained by Caroline Haskins of Vice, who secured copies of Amazon Ring contracts via public records requests.

A signed memorandum of understanding between Ring and the police department of Lakeland, Florida, and emails obtained via a public records request, show that Ring is using local police as a de facto advertising firm. Police are contractually required to “Engage the Lakeland community with outreach efforts on the platform to encourage adoption of the platform/app.”

In order to partner with Ring, police departments must also assign officers to Ring-specific roles that include a press coordinator, a social media manager, and a community relations coordinator.

There’s no such thing as a free surveillance camera. Amazon gives these to local cops with the understanding they will proselytize on behalf of its doorbell cameras. Police give these cameras to residents with the understanding (albeit one without the legally-binding language) that they’ll hand over footage from these cameras whenever officers ask for it.

The set-up is sustainable and scales well. The more residents who download Amazon’s surveillance/snitch app Neighbors, the more credits cops can apply towards the purchase of more Ring cameras. It’s a new spin on pyramid schemes, with Amazon gaining market share with each deployment, allowing government employees to do the legwork.

The police become middlemen and advertisers. Some agencies might bristle at the mandated evangelism Amazon demands, but that resentment is likely outweighed by the addition of several cameras to the agency’s surveillance network. As previous reporting has shown, every installed Ring doorbell cam shows up on an interactive map provided by Amazon called the “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal.” Cops know who have cameras and can easily figure out what footage might be useful while investigating criminal activity.

This arrangement allows officers to bypass warrant requirements by approaching homeowners directly for footage. Granted, this was always the case, but a portal connecting police with Ring doorbell users streamlines the process.

Amazon — through Ring — claims this is all meant to make neighborhoods safer. Many residents accepting doorbell cameras likely believe this claim. But it’s really about Amazon cornering a market by offering free goods to cops and the public they serve.

The contractual language that turns police PR contacts into an extension of Ring’s marketing team blurs the line between public and private, pretty much ensuring the public will receive the smallest amount of law enforcement’s attention. PDs will serve their own interests first, followed by those of their new corporate overlords. And what does the public get out of it? Free cameras loaded with implicit obligations to everyone on the supply chain.

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Amazon's Free Doorbell Cameras Only Cost Law Enforcement Agencies Their Dignity And Autonomy”

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30 Comments
Tanner Andrewssays:

should be about 5-10 minutes

an interactive map provided by Amazon called the "Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal."

Well, now that it is known, I have to wonder just how long it will take for it to be hacked and perhaps even publicly accessible.

Also, in Florida, there is an interesting question of need to hack. Assume for the moment that the law enforcement neighborhood portal provides information, which is to say, records, for the police. I think that a safe asusmption for now.

How long will it take for someone to request information from there, the police to turn them down without a valid reason?

The sad part is that I have no connection to the folks hacking in. So, when the legitimate records requestor shows up in my office for a S:119 action, it will be slower to do it the “right” way.

PaulTsays:

Re: The Important Thing

"rig elections, and control the will of the people, like the UK has"

You’re mistaken. You’re thinking of the US, where the candidate who was vastly voted for by the most people was not given the election win, not the UK where the majority vote was honoured. As idiotic as recent election results have been in the UK in recent times, they have not been rigged, unlike the gerrymandered states.

Luckydobsays:

Re: Re: The Important Thing

This is EXACTLY how it’s supposed to be in the USA. The President of the United States of America is never chosen by popular vote. It is based on the electoral college, which is a good thing, even though it doesn’t assure that the president will receive the most votes overall. It does assure that the president will have won with substantial popular support, and that support will not be limited to one region of the country or to a handful of coastal cities.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: The Important Thing

The problem being of course that those handful of cities is where most Americans live, meaning that one person?s vote is only worth a fraction of that others depending on location. Hence, easily rigged by targeting a few yokels with nerds opposed to that of the majority of Americans.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: The Important Thing

The intent was that the president would have little power. The title "president" was chosen from modesty?they’d "preside over" or watch the lawmakers, basically, and faithfully execute whatever laws they passed. You’d still elect a congressperson and senator who would, collectively, have most of the real power and could stand up against a bad president.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Important Thing

"You’d still elect a congressperson and senator who would, collectively, have most of the real power and could stand up against a bad president."

That’s the ideal. Unfortunately, what you have is idiots who vote straight ticket and refuse to change their voting patterns when things go south, so you have a Replublican controlled system where more people are interested in playing partisan games than they are in actually doing what’s right for their constituents.

Again, the ideals of the system are found. Their practise is not working right now, and it took surprisingly few votes to be gamed to achieve that.

Wendy Cockcroftsays:

Re: Re: The Important Thing

Eh, per Caroline Cadwalladr of the Guardian the election may not have been rigged but it was unduly influenced by Cambridge Analyitica. It doesn’t help that only six entities own the majority of our mass media outlets, including newspapers. This is how that Pound Shop Trump Boris Johnson became our PM.

Mike Readsays:

If you ignore the scumminess, this is actually genius on Amazon’s part. They only have to advertise to the top level of the police force – the lower level police will then take care of everything else for them. Additionally they’ll collect so much data from this scheme that they’ll be able to turn into even more revenue.

Scummy as hell but absolutely genius.

Anonymoussays:

If I go to memory-alpha.org, I see a long list of disclaimers:

The user-created content of this site is released under the Creative Commons "Attribution-NonCommercial" license version 4.0. See Memory Alpha: Copyrights for more information.

Community content is available under CC-BY-NC unless otherwise noted.

followed by a huge display ad for Amazon. While Amazon doesn’t own Wikia Inc, they are an investor and a sponsor. Placing adverts against content that’s under a non-commercial licence looks an awful lot like stealing from that content’s creators to me… so where do I place the cameras to get this shut down?

btr1701says:

This arrangement allows officers to bypass warrant requirements by approaching homeowners directly for footage.

Asking for consent to search does not ‘bypass the warrant requirement’, for god’s sweet sake.

The ability of a person to consent to a search has been part of 4th Amendment law from the beginning, not a "bypass" of it. It’s inherent in the entire concept of private property and the rights that go with it: I can give and refuse consent to search my own property as I please.

btr1701says:

Granted, this was always the case, but a portal connecting police with Ring doorbell users streamlines the process.

So basically nothing of substance has actually changed, it’s just more efficient. Apparently that’s a bad thing to the Cushings of the world. I guess it’s not fair enough to the criminals or something. Decreases their odds of getting away with their thievery and whatnot. Can’t have that, I guess.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Yes, you are correct in that we can not allow criminal activity at all – anywhere. So, to that end I am proposing that you have wifi enabled video cameras installed in every room in your house and do not forget the microphones. Allowing the police to monitor these devices in your home will ensure there is no criminal activity – right?

Anonymoussays:

So giving out a bunch of camera doorbells for free where you still have to pay a monthly subscription to make them useful? Cameras that record everything into the cloud unless of course, you cut that COAX wire or phone line or both going into the house. No Internet, no recording of anything with these cloud-based storage cameras.

With these Amazon cameras, I’m sure giving police access to what they are seeing for a price to bring in even more money for Amazon.

Jim P.says:

Choice Vs. Compulsion

" Police give these cameras to residents with the understanding (albeit one without the legally-binding language) that they’ll hand over footage from these cameras whenever officers ask for it. "

There is a fine line, easily crossed, between giving the recordings voluntarily and being required to do so. Possibly on a regular basis for "review" and "historical analysis".

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