Add Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to the list of those concerned about the partnership between internet-connected video doorbell company Ring--owned by Amazon--and over 400 police departments.
If users consent, Ring shares video footage from the doorbells with local police departments and federal agencies. That footage may help solve crimes if suspected faces ring a bell, as it were, but it also clearly has privacy implications.
Markey's knock on the doorbell--in addition to his alarm that Ring is looking into facial recognition technology--is that Ring uses "targeted" language to encourage its users to grant police access to doorbell video footage and has proactively sought out law enforcement partners.
In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Markey points to the "considerable privacy and civil liberty risks" in Ring's products and partnerships.
Sen. Markey has been a leading voice for protecting privacy, including sponsoring legislation to give web users, particularly younger ones, more control over their information.
Markey wants (by Sept. 26) the answers to a bunch of questions.
Those include 1) the identities of all its law enforcement partners past and present, 2) whether law enforcement is allowed to share footage with other entities, 3) whether it will review its consent prompts so they do not use coersive or manipulative language that encourages sharing the video, 4) whether law enforcement has security safeguards to protect the user video they access, 5) and whether Amazon plans to coordinate law enforcement's current use of its Rekognition facial recognition product with facial recognition offerings from Ring.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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