By B.N. Frank
“I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me and I have no privacy
Oh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me. Tell me is it just a dream.” Rockwell
Most of us old enough to remember when Rockwell’s hit song first hit the air waves probably never dreamed that this was how our lives would become. “Surveillance Capitalism” is real and fabulous for businesses but not for those who cherish their privacy. It’s creepy and annoying when businesses collect, store and analyze customer data in order to market other products to us or to sell it to 3rd parties that then market other products to us (see 1, 2, 3). Unfortunately, it’s become the norm.
Of course it’s not unreasonable for law enforcement groups to use technology to help take a bite out of crime. Unfortunately, many applications seem to include more surveillance, data collection, storage and and analytics on everybody – not just criminals.
Activist Post has reported before about Ring door cameras being used by law enforcement and it may cause some to recoil: “Amazon Continues Helping Police By Teaching Them How To Bypass A Warrant.”
Now we know how widespread this has become as it’s being reported that Ring Doorbell Camera (owned by Amazon) has partnered up with 400 law enforcement groups, which may lead to even more of this for everybody.
From Washington Post:
The doorbell-camera company Ring has quietly forged video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls the nation’s “new neighborhood watch.”
The partnerships let police automatically request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said. Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place.”
The number of police deals, which has not previously been reported, is likely to fuel broader questions about privacy, surveillance and the expanding reach of tech giants and local police. The rapid growth of the program, which began in spring 2018, surprised some civil liberties advocates, who thought that fewer than 300 agencies had signed on.
“The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer,” said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of Neighbors, Ring’s crime-focused companion app. “We’ve had a lot of success in terms of deterring crime and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly.”
But legal experts and privacy advocates have voiced alarm about the company’s eyes-everywhere ambitions and increasingly close relationship with police, saying the program could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants, and subject innocent people, including those who Ring users have flagged as “suspicious,” to greater surveillance and potential risk.
Activist Post reports regularly about surveillance, data collection, privacy violations and other issues associated with new technology. For more details, visit our archives.
Image credit: ACLU.org
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