Amazon-owned Ring under fire for partnership with police

Law enforcement can view shared video through the associated Neighbors app

Activists are calling on Amazon-owned home security system Ring to end its partnerships with local police after George Floyd, a black man, died in custody after a white Minneapolis cop, who has been fired and charged with second-degree murder, kneeled on his neck for eight minutes.

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Jason Kelley and Matthew Guariglia, analysts for a nonprofit organization that defends digital civil liberties called the Electric Frontier Foundation, published a petition Wednesday demanding Ring sever ties with police departments.

Ernie Field pushes the doorbell on his Ring doorbell camera at his home in Wolcott, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

"Across the United States, people are taking to the street to protest racist police violence, including the tragic police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This is a historic moment of reckoning for law enforcement," Kelley and Guariglia wrote. "Technology companies, too, must rethink how the tools they design and sell to police departments minimize accountability and exacerbate injustice."

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Ring did not immediately respond to an email from FOX Business.

The security company has more than 1,300 police partnerships, according to a regularly updated interactive map.

Ring allows users to view live or recorded security footage from their homes on their computers or smartphones. The system has an accompanying app called Neighbors, which is where police come into the picture. Police departments can request footage from users if they feel someone's Ring footage can help reveal evidence, but users can also deny police access. RIng's website states that its mission is to "reduce crime in neighborhoods."

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Police departments have welcomed the Ring partnerships as useful crime-fighting tools, including Chief Kevin Molis of Malden, Massachusetts.

"We consider it a valuable tool for public safety," Molis said. "Is it a bad thing that private citizens, in order to make their streets safer, are investing their own money in a product that’s allowing crimes to be solved and crimes to be prevented?"

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But Kelley and Guariglia argue that Ring's system and others like it encourage neighbors to make "snap judgments about who does, and who does not, belong in their neighborhood, and summon police to confront them," which could lead to unjust arrests and even violence.

Ring camera (Ring.com)

"Ring plays an active role in enabling and perpetuating police harassment of Black Americans," they wrote. "Ring’s surveillance doorbells and its accompanying Neighbors app have inflamed many residents’ worst instincts and urged them to spy on pedestrians, neighbors, and workers. We must tell Amazon Ring to end their police partnerships today."

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Amazon, which purchased Ring in April 2019, previously considered adding facial recognition software to Ring's security cameras, but the tech giant announced on Wednesday that it is banning police use of the technology for one year.

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"We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge," Amazon wrote in a blog post. "We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.