Like so many technological revolutions before it, the Internet of Things is being broadly embraced without any consideration for its implications for society — and that includes mass surveillance courtesy of seemingly innocuous items like digital doorbells, which just happen to be equipped with wireless video connections, warns Dan King in an op-ed for The American Conservative. In fact one of the world’s largest tech companies, Amazon, appears to be actively partnering with law enforcement to encourage the spread of digital devices with video and other recording capabilities for just this purpose.
- Amazon’s Ring home security company, which sells the video doorbells, has partnered with local police forces across the U.S., giving them access to footage recorded by the doorbell’s digital cameras.
- The video footage is shared with police via Amazon’s Neighbors app, and no warrant is required as long as the homeowner agrees. Further, Amazon is helping coach police officers in how to persuade homeowners to give their consent to sharing the footage.
- In fact the police partnerships seem to be something of a marketing tool for Amazon: police departments are urging homeowners to buy, install, and share video footage from their Ring doorbells. In fact in some cases Amazon is giving free Ring doorbells to police who press them on homeowners, also for free. Ad who wouldn’t trust a friendly policeman’s advice?
- Amazon is certainly aware of the unpleasant optics (get it?) this might generate: King notes that the company’s contracts with police departments forbid the use of the word “surveillance” and also give the tech giant the right to review any press releases published by local police forces that mentions the partnership.