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Surveillance is the Next Big Business for Amazon

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For the most part, Amazon has made a drastic impact on our day-to-day lives, bringing us immense convenience and products that provide major benefits. But the meteoric rise of Amazon has pushed the company to seek out new revenue streams, and its latest foray is consequently its most troubling. 

Late last year, Amazon acquired smart doorbell maker Ring, in a move that pushed the companies surveillance capabilities from inside the home to outside. Now, according to a report published by CNET, Amazon’s Ring doorbells are being used to assist law enforcement in building surveillance networks across the country. 

More than 50 police departments have joined forces with Amazon and Ring to encourage neighborhoods to purchase these smart doorbells which in turn are creating willing surveillance networks starting at the doorsteps of homes. 

“Our township is now entirely covered by cameras,” Capt. Vincent Kerney, detective bureau commander of the Bloomfield Police Department in New Jersey told the website. “Every area of town we have, there are some Ring cameras.”

If police departments decide to partner with Ring, they will have the ability to geofence a certain area, and request footage filmed by Ring doorbells. The footage is only attainable if the president chooses to send it, but they also have the option to subpoena Ring if the residents choose not to hand it over. 

Ring also has a Neighborhood App which serves as a social network where residents can share their Ring camera feeds to neighbors. This particular feature is apparently one that law enforcement is most interested in, as it allows them to monitor Ring video feeds unchecked. 

Law enforcement says the practice is allowing them to limit the amount of crime that occurs in areas that participate in the program. They say that it has already been successful in solving crimes, including identifying suspicious vehicles in a neighborhood and unscrupulous people stealing packages from doorsteps. 

However, privacy advocates are wary that Amazon and Ring’s partnership with law enforcement gives unprecedented access to a surveillance network on law-abiding citizens. A serious concern about Amazon Ring is that innocent, unsuspecting bystanders into a criminal investigation. Another concern is that it may be used to surveil children playing in front of a home or residence, a practice that has strict guidelines in the US regarding the collection of personal information for children under the age of 13. 

With more police departments partnering with Amazon Ring, the greater the chance your privacy and civil rights could be violated. Recently, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding how Ring surveillance footage is being used for investigations, to determine if people’s right to privacy is being violated. 

The partnership of government and corporate power to build a wide-reaching surveillance network is a troubling idea, so it has never been more important to be vigilant and make smart decisions in the technology we use. 

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