Fifteen Minnesota law enforcement agencies have agreements with home security company Ring that could allow them to access video from residents’ properties.
Through the “Neighbors” program and app, law enforcement can request that homeowners allow them to see Ring doorbell footage from specific times and areas. In blog posts, the company describes the app as a “tool to help [law enforcement] better engage with and inform the communities they serve” that has helped them “achieve amazing results” in active investigations. Privacy advocates and legal experts have raised concerns that the program is a potential threat to civil liberties, the Washington Post reported.
Ring, which is owned by Amazon, makes security cameras, lighting, security systems and its flagship product, Ring doorbells. When the doorbells detect motion, users are alerted through an app, which they can also use to watch the video feed remotely.
The Neighbors app, which works like a social networking site, allows residents to anonymously post about suspicious activity, crimes and share footage from their security systems. Through the app, law enforcement can see public posts and chat with users — as well as request footage that hasn’t been shared.
Officers can ask Ring to request footage from all users within a certain time and geographic range, up to half a square mile wide, according to the Washington Post. Residents can accept, decline or opt out of all future requests.
Users are notified when local law enforcement starts working with Ring, and the company says officers don’t have access to live feeds, devices, personal or identifying information about users or their locations.
Ring first started the law enforcement partnership with Greenfield, Wis. in March 2018, the Washington Post reported. Now, 405 agencies participate, Ring says — including several in Minnesota.
“If the police demanded every citizen put a camera at their door and give officers access to it, we might all recoil,” Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor and author of The Rise of Big Data Policing told the Washington Post.
“By tapping into ‘a perceived need for more self-surveillance and by playing on consumer fears about crime and security,’ he added, Ring has found ‘a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government,’” the Post reported.
Explore the map to see if your local law enforcement agency has partnered with Ring. Zoom out to see the rest of the United States. The map is published by Ring and was last updated Feb. 6, 2020.