A smart doorbell is useful if you want to see who’s at the front door or what’s going on in the yard. A popular option is the Ring doorbell.
Since the doorbell is in a prime location to watch for unusual activity or potential crimes, Ring’s Neighbors app lets neighbors share videos and screenshots. Law enforcement has occasionally also used Ring footage during criminal investigations. Tap or click here to see how it works.
Obtaining footage usually involves a request to the doorbell owner, but Ring could be handing over data without your knowledge. Read on to see how police can get your footage without asking you first.
Not very neighborly of them
Amazon made a significant change to how the Neighbors app worked last year. Instead of law enforcement privately messaging an owner, requests for security footage are posted through a publicly viewable post category on Neighbors called Request for Assistance.
That’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. As it turns out, Ring supplied footage to law enforcement on multiple occasions without doorbell owners’ consent. Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey sent a letter to Ring with various questions, wanting to know how many times Ring shared user recordings with law enforcement without permission.
Ring’s response: “Ring has provided videos to law enforcement in response to an emergency request only 11 times.”
The company says it reserves the right to respond to emergency requests from agencies and that “in each instance, Ring made a good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person.”
What you can do about it
Ring says 2,161 law enforcement agencies and 455 fire departments have enrolled in the Neighbors app’s Public Safety Service.
You might not have a say when Ring pulls footage from your doorbell in the case of an emergency, but you can stop law enforcement from asking you for any videos. Here’s how to do that:
- Open the Ring app.
- Open the settings menu by tapping it on the top left corner of the app.
- Select Control Center.
- Slide the toggle next to Video Requests to the left. This turns the feature off.
- You’ll see a verification message. Tap Yes, Disable Now.