Concerns about privacy have been raised after the revelation of emails from the chief of Amazon’s home security subsidiary declaring war on criminals.
Jamie Siminoff, CEO of the Santa Monica-based video doorbell company Ring, shared the vow in a March 2016 email galvanizing staff at the then-startup, which Amazon acquired in April 2018 for $1billion.
In the email, Siminoff addressed ‘the dirtbag criminals that steal our packages and rob our houses … your time is numbered because Ring is now officially declaring war on you!’ according to the Intercept.
One of Ring’s key features is the Neighbors app, which allows users to quickly share video of suspicious activity at their home with neighbors and, in some case, police.
An American Civil Liberties Union attorney has claimed the feature introduces privacy concerns and ‘blurs the line’ between state and private surveillance – a claim that is strongly rejected by Ring and the law enforcement agencies the company has partnered with.
Ring CEO Jaime Siminoff (above) is defending the Amazon subsidiary’s partnerships with local police departments after questions were raised about privacy
In Florida, the Polk County Sheriff’s office used this Ring footage to ask for the public’s assistance in identifying a car burglar who was active on Friday
‘Users have full control of who views their Ring footage,’ Siminoff wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
‘Only the content that a user chooses to make publicly available on Neighbors (by posting it to the app) can be viewed via the Neighbors app or by local law enforcement,’ he continued.
Ring has partnered with police departments in several states, including Florida, California, and Texas.
In areas with such partnerships, local police are able to see videos posted to the Neighbors app within their jurisdiction – but the company insists that police see no more than a regular user would, and that names and exact addresses of customers are masked.
A camera-equipped Ring doorbell is seen in this file photo. The company allows users to quickly share footage of suspicious activity with neighbors and, in some cases, police
One feature available to only cops is the ability to request video from a users in a specific area for a specific time window, useful when seeking evidence in a crime. Ring sends out an alert to users in the area, who can choose whether to turn over their footage to police.
Matt Cagle, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, argued in an interview with the Intercept that the feature gives law enforcement ‘coercive power over [Ring] customers.’
‘Many people are not going to feel like they have a choice when law enforcement asks for access to their footage,’ said Cagle.
The attorney argued that Ring’s partnership with law enforcement ‘blurs the line between corporate and government surveillance.’
In a statement to DailyMail.com, Ring spokeswoman Kaleigh Bueckert-Orme asserted that the Intercept’s report ‘misrepresented’ the Neighbors app.
She did not elaborate and referred to Siminoff’s recent blog post for clarification.
Earlier this week, the company posted video testimonials from customers and police praising the Neighborhood app for helping to thwart crooks.
‘Any time you can close that ground of occurrence to reporting it, you’re gaining ground. It’s a win not only for law enforcement but the community,’ said Deputy Cody Held with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, in one of the videos.
Held cited a case where footage of a prowler uploaded to the Neighbors app helped him apprehend a suspect who was trying to flee the scene.
In his blog post on Thursday, Siminoff doubled down on his warning to crooks in his 2016 email, although in somewhat more moderate language.
‘Criminals and thieves take note,’ he wrote, ‘our team is working tirelessly to stop you and make safer neighborhoods for our families to live in.’