Look around the next time you go to the shops or to fetch the kids from school. If you pay attention, you will notice that there will almost always be a security camera point in your direction. Whether it’s at a gas station or on the freeway, they are everywhere.
A study last year found that there are so many cameras in the U.S. that you might feel like a celebrity. The average American is on cam 238 times a week or roughly 34 times a day. The amount would vary depending on where you live, but it’s still a lot.
Amazon’s Ring launched the Neighbors app a while back. The system aims to keep neighborhoods safe, where users can share video clips and photos from their cameras of what’s going on. Law enforcement agencies have also used it to gather evidence in crimes, but a recent change is making it more transparent.
Here’s the backstory
The Neighbors app works like a social media network, where residents can discuss crime-related matters in the area. During criminal investigations, the police can directly message residents for video evidence or other details.
But the practice is criticized for racial profiling and the potential for state surveillance. In 2019 the Electronic Frontier Foundation spoke out about the Neighbors and similar apps. “All too often, they facilitate reporting of so-called ‘suspicious’ behavior that really amounts to racial profiling,” it wrote in a blog post.
Raising a red flag on privacy and freedom of movement, the EFF explained that even if you don’t have a camera set up, you can still be tracked and traced by somebody else’s security measures. “Video footage of your comings and goings might easily be accessed and used by your neighbors, the police, and Amazon itself.”
But that is all about to change.
The big change to Neighbors
When law enforcement wants to obtain video footage, they privately message the respective owners and get copies of the data. Amazon is now making a change to how Ring handles these data requests by making them public.
“Beginning next week, public safety agencies will only be able to request information or video from their communities through a new, publicly viewable post category on Neighbors called Request for Assistance,” Ring explained on its website.
The company detailed that only verified public safety agency profiles can post a Request for Assistance. When a request is made, anybody who uses the app can ask for more information on the incident.
The change aims to make law enforcement requests more transparent. It should also reduce the number of “racial profiling” cases logged by police departments. Here are some requirements:
- Each post must include a valid case number and agency contact information.
- Limited to a 12-hour timeframe.
- And only encompass an area between 0.025 and .5 miles.