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Ring is reportedly walking back its police-friendly stance on data sharing

The company is known for giving footage to law enforcement without user permission.

Ring

It looks like Ring is reversing course on its police-friendly stance regarding data sharing, according to reporting from Bloomberg. Amazon told the publication that Ring’s home doorbell unit would stop acquiescing to warrantless police requests for footage from users’ video doorbells and surveillance cameras. This practice has long been derided by privacy advocacy groups, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Senator Ed Markey even launched a probe into the policy back in 2022.

Additionally, Ring will disable its Request For Assistance tool next week, which is a program that allows law enforcement to ask users for footage on a voluntary basis, according to an official blog post. From now on, police and fire departments will have to seek a warrant to request footage from users, though Amazon could provide footage without a warrant if the agency can prove its essential for an ongoing emergency.

As a matter of fact, the entire Neighbors app, which is where the Request For Assistance feature lives, is undergoing an overhaul to shift its focus from crime and safety to more of a community hub, according to Ring spokesperson Yassi Yarger. To that end, the Neighbors app is getting a new highlight reel feature for users to peruse the most popular video captures of the week. Ring hasn't given a reason given for this sudden shift in priorities. Crime is down nationwide, sure, but it's not like we live in a Star Trek utopia. The company has been diversifying its portfolio lately, adding new products to the lineup, which could be one reason.

Ring has been cozying up with law enforcement since inception, as the company always stated its primary reason to exist was to improve public safety. “Our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods has been at the core of everything we do at Ring,” founding chief Jamie Siminoff said when Amazon bought the company for $839 million back in 2018.

Of course, we don’t exactly know if Amazon and Ring will stick by this decision, or if they’ll start quietly allowing law enforcement to nab videos six or eight months down the line. However, this is becoming something of a trend in the tech industry. Google just changed its location history feature on Maps to stop police from nabbing data on everyone in the vicinity of a crime. Law enforcement had been relying on the feature for years.