A chorus of civil rights and privacy groups is calling on U.S. cities to end partnerships with Amazon’s Ring camera unit, saying the deals raise privacy, discrimination and other concerns, Axios reports. At least 400 agencies have deals with the Amazon subsidiary. More than 30 civil rights and privacy groups have signed an open letter calling for an end to such deals, saying the partnerships “threaten civil liberties, privacy and civil rights, and exist without oversight or accountability.” The letter calls for future deals to involve “community engagement” and approval by elected officials.
Ring has been striking deals with cities that give police agencies access to a map of Ring cameras from which they can request footage. Ring often gets the agencies involved in the marketing of the Amazon security cameras, either directly or indirectly. Concerns with the deals include everything from a lack of transparency, to the fact that taxpayer money is sometimes used to buy or subsidize devices to the potential for racial profiling and discrimination. The big picture: Alliances between law enforcement and tech companies, such as Palantir’s contracts with local police departments, have a history of raising concerns in the U.S. over privacy have put some consumers on edge about tech that tracks their moves. Evan Greer of Fight for the Future says, “Amazon is building a for-profit surveillance empire that completely skirts the democratic process. These partnerships are spreading extremely fast.” Amazon responds that, “Ring’s mission is to help make neighborhoods safer. We work towards this mission in a number of ways, including providing a free tool that can help build stronger relationships between communities and their local law enforcement agencies. We have taken care to design these features in a way that keeps users in control and protects their privacy.”