back to article Amazon gave Ring video to cops without consent or warrant 11 times so far in 2022

Amazon's home security wing Ring turned over footage to US law enforcement without permission from the devices' owners and seemingly without a warrant 11 times so far in 2022. Though the internet giant has a policy that police generally cannot view recordings without owners' consent, that safeguard can be overridden with court …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    One up on Stalin

    "Ring doorbells are motion activated and do record audio up to 20 feet (about 6 meters) away, a distance which could potentially encroach into a neighbor's property or the street. Other doorbells can detect audio even further."

    In Solzhenitsyn's 'The First Circle' a plan was suggested to plant microphones in the backs of park benches - it may indeed have been done in reality. But six or more metres - that's a real achievement. At modern housing densities that means pretty much everything anyone says out of doors gets recorded by Amazon. And that's not even being done by a state agency.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: One up on Stalin

      No need when everyone posts their opinion of the government on Facebook and uploads their storming of the winter palace to Instagram.

      I suppose a network of secret microphones could be useful to find out what the driver of the pickup truck covered in swastikas, Confederate flags and Fuck Joe Biden stickers really thinks about the party

      1. Jinx463

        Re: One up on Stalin

        So, like one person ever?

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: One up on Stalin

      20 feet for a microphone or camera is NOT a real achievement. If it couldn't do that, it would be quite defective.

      I assume 20 feet is the range of the motion sensor. That's only about halfway to the street, and far less than the annoying lights for security cameras that people use here.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: One up on Stalin

        20 feet, in some places that is all the way across the street and into the house opposite!

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: One up on Stalin

          In far more places, though, it doesn't even reach the street.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: In far more places, though, it doesn't even reach the street.

            "Ring" aren't on this list yet though:-

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Royal_Warrant_holders_of_the_British_royal_family

          2. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: One up on Stalin

            @Ken Hagan

            Maybe that shows you are basing your comments on certain more wealthy areas, or different countries,

            In the UK plenty of terraced streets, where door to house opens directly onto pavement (sidewalk for USians).

            I spent a big proportion of my life living in those type of terraced houses.

            Plenty of UK new build housing estates, although nominally detached or semi-detached buildings have houses really close together & little in the way of garden etc.

            So, for many UK houses, 20 feet range is significant privacy issue, potentially for neighbours and passing pedestrians.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: One up on Stalin

              Very few UK streets (including the pavements on both sides) are less than 20 feet wide, so I strongly suspect they are outnumbered by houses with front gardens big enough to park a car in.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: One up on Stalin

        The article says it's the range for the microphone. For a camera or motion sensor, you're right, but although microphones that can cover those distances are common, they're not necessary in this device and are not always present (although microphone sensitivity is not measured purely in distance, so I'm not sure what measurement they were actually using).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depends

    Active 911 call from the customer's address then a live doorbell camera might be useful to the police without waiting for the victim to logon and agree to terms and conditions

    Or

    Police decide that somebody at the other end if the street us a drug dealer (or black=same thing) and gets your camera footage to record every passing car. No need to ask you since you aren't in the image, right ?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Depends

      It's a fundamental tenet of the legal system that the police don't get to decide, that's up to judges. If you don't separate powers, you always get overreach.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Depends

        But if they know of availability you will soon find that someone will come up with an excuse to abuse the resource, and in the US they're particularly inventive when it comes to not only finding excuses, but even getting away with it, even it gets peopel killed in the process.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Depends

        Yes, or at least it should be, but that's where they start using other things. For example, the other tenet that if the owner consents, they don't need approval. If they can say that Amazon's the owner and Amazon consents whenever they get a message, they can use that to avoid going to a judge. This leads to the overreach you correctly predicted.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Depends

          "If they can say that Amazon's the owner and Amazon consents whenever they get a message, they can use that to avoid going to a judge. "

          In the US, some states/locales have a one person rule and others have an all parties rule. That is to say that one party to the conversation knows a recording is being made vs. every party to the conversation knows it's being recorded. Even the person who caused the spy device to be installed might not understand when the system is recording audio since it's automatic. That would mean that the audio is being recorded without the knowledge or permission of the parties to that conversation. Amazon would not be considered a party since they aren't there and participating. Video is no problem, but not audio.

          Too bad we can't have polls here or I'd suggest one asking if anybody didn't see this coming. How many TV programs are there where the "good guys" can hack into any CCTV camera or microphone in minutes via some super computer geek and eavesdrop. They also have software with overly graphical UI's that can invent pixels and filter the worst audio to positively identify the bad guys and hear what they are saying. Unless, of course, they need problems to arise to put a plot twist in and stretch the episode to the full time slot.

      3. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: Depends

        So if the police can hear somebody inside a building getting stabbed then they should wait outside until they get a court order?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Depends

          You need to learn how warrants work before you start asking such questions. To start you off, the answer to your question is no, and there's a difference between a search warrant, an arrest warrant, and permission to go into a building. Some need court orders. Some don't. In some cases, what would ordinarily need a court order can be done in a different way. Failing to follow some procedures results in consequences when presenting evidence at a trial. These are things you might want to read about in more detail. Laws are very different by country, and textbooks are written to describe all of it.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Depends

          No. because in the UK that would be "reasonable suspicion" and in the US "probable cause". I think. IANAL but my wife likes watching crime dramas/police procedurals ;-)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Depends

        "the police don't get to decide, that's up to judges. If you don't separate powers, you always get overreach."

        Yep, and according to the article, it wasn't even the police making the decision. AMAZON got to decide, no warrants were issued, so no judges were involved.

        At a minimum, there needs to be a robust review process after an "emergency release" of information. If unfounded, there needs to be real consequences for both Amazon and the people involved in the decision. In reality, there should be a requirement for a judge to sign a warrant for release.

        As a practical matter, I find it hard to imagine a real case where a ring camera is necessary to deal with an emergency situation.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    11 times ?

    1st time was all footage for all cameras in January

    2nd time was all footage for all cameras in February

    .....

    Somebody was away at the start of December and nobody else knew the password

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a current meme ...

    With a pin sharp picture of a galaxy 13 billion light years away courtesy of the JW telescope.

    Alongside a pretty typical CCTV snap taken at 10 feet where the perpetrators own mother would fail to recognise them.

    And despite having CCTV footage for a number of breaking over the years, not one has led to an arrest let alone property recovery.

    #justsayin'

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: There is a current meme ...

      The point isn't to catch anyone, its to deter people from doing things here and have them move on to loiter in neighborhoods that didn't pay for cameras.

      This does sort of break down when every last village has more cameras than Kodak

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: There is a current meme ...

        In the UK would be used to catch people putting the bin out to early or not removing it fast enough once it was "emptied"

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: There is a current meme ...

          "In the UK would be used to catch people putting the bin out to early or not removing it fast enough once it was "emptied""

          It's not just the UK, HOA's in the US would just salivate at being able to asses fines on their members for stupid stuff like that. It would also allow them to time how long you've had the garage door up.

      2. Cuddles

        Re: There is a current meme ...

        That expression may need updating; Kodak stopped making cameras a decade ago.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: There is a current meme ...

      "Alongside a pretty typical CCTV snap taken at 10 feet where the perpetrators own mother would fail to recognise them."

      The shop owners also never seem to figure out that a camera placed at a high angle isn't going to see under the hoodie and get a good image of the perps face. But the kit was cheap and routing the wires by stapling them to the walls at the ceiling joint is just how these things are meant to be installed.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: There is a current meme ...

        They also want them out of reach in case they get stolen :-)

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    This is just one of the many reasons why European data is not safe in the US

    In Europe privacy is a fundamental right that is enshrined in most constitutions. In the US it's usually waived for the highest bidder or whoever can operate a fax machine. Even the fig leaf that Amazon "checks" is bizarre as this puts the decision in the hands of a commercial organisation with no little or no training and no liability. This is just bad lawmaking.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: This is just one of the many reasons why European data is not safe in the US

      >In Europe privacy is a fundamental right that is enshrined in most constitutions.

      And yet it's Europe where every city center has more CCTV cameras watching you than a reality TV show and where ANPR tracks every car on every major road.

      Here in the offshore colonies, speed cameras are banned as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: This is just one of the many reasons why European data is not safe in the US

        And yet it's Europe where every city center has more CCTV cameras watching you than a reality TV show and where ANPR tracks every car on every major road.

        Nope, that's pretty much limited to the UK. Elsewhere number plate recognition systems are highly regulated and a court order is required for access for anything other than traffic offences.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: This is just one of the many reasons why European data is not safe in the US

          Recent foot-shooting events notwithstanding, the UK is still in Europe

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: This is just one of the many reasons why European data is not safe in the US

            True, the UK is part of the continent and geographical area known as Europe, but the UK is not the whole of Europe. Charlie was replying to the comment "And yet it's Europe where every city center has more CCTV..."

            The previous poster may also have been colloquially referring to the European Union as "Europe" as that is a fairly common if not properly accurate usage, and in those terms the UK is most definitely NOT in "Europe".

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    Good reason not to get a Ring

    While I could easily imagine circumstances where I would give the police access to my footage, I insist on being the sole party responsible for deciding when that happens and what they get from MY personal property.

    Not to mention that something which requires the cloud to function is automatically disabled when Amazon decides not to support it any longer. I would gladly pay a little extra for a product that has on board storage, or better yet can be pointed to whatever storage you designate - a cloud service you choose, your own NAS, etc.

    I've given up trying to explain this to friends though. Earlier this week a good friend of mine was telling me about the several Ring devices she got for her house in the two weeks since I last saw her. I kept my thoughts to myself, even when she asked me if I had any and I told her did not and she was surprised since I was so knowledgeable about tech. I knew if I started down that path what I said would essentially sound like me saying she was dumb for buying them.

    Someday there will be a huge privacy blowup where Ring devices are either hacked en masse or an Amazon employee has provided a way for criminals to access footage to aid in a robbery that goes wrong and results in people dying. That will get the public's attention, and that of lawmakers. Having one or two cases per month where Amazon provides the police footage won't move the needle, people will assume it was for something like trying to track down a child that was kidnapped (and for all I know that's exactly what these cases were, i.e. seeing where a car goes after an abduction)

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Good reason not to get a Ring

      "I knew if I started down that path what I said would essentially sound like me saying she was dumb for buying them."

      I don't have that filter installed. I wouldn't say "dumb" these days, but that it's a mistake and a waste of money. Evidence of the very minimal amount of maturing that's occurred over the decades but it's still better than I was in my 20's.

      I don't have people casually stopping by that I need to worry about. Deliveries are all routed to my PO Box which can include UPS and FedEx if I supply a shipper with the physical address of the post office rather than just the box number. I also have a sign that reads "Visitors by appointment only. Do not knock". I hope that creates a vision of some crazy old fart that not going to be very sociable. When I'm at home, I don't often keep myself in a presentable condition.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Good reason not to get a Ring

      "Having one or two cases per month where Amazon provides the police footage won't move the needle, people will assume it was for something like trying to track down a child that was kidnapped (and for all I know that's exactly what these cases were, i.e. seeing where a car goes after an abduction)"

      Or one or two "high profile" cases. After all, millions of people every day have their personal details stolen and then published or sold on, but no one seems to be enforcing the laws properly or holding the people losing the data responsible. Maybe if something happened to "important" people, like, I dunno, some Supreme Court judges, then "the law" might sit up and take notice.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In each instance, Ring made a good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person requiring disclosure of information without delay,

    And this, kids, is why we have privacy laws in Europe. The idea is not to have to rely on a vague concept to condone and legitimise mass surveillance.

  8. doublelayer Silver badge

    Some scope information would be useful

    The 11 occasions is not a number I expected; I wouldn't have been surprised to see a number in the thousands. However, it could still mean a number of things, and I would like it if Amazon clarified which of these it is:

    1. 11 times that a user wanted to send footage from a camera to police but needed Amazon's help to do it.

    2. 11 times Amazon provided access to a camera without the user's approval on receiving some kind of legal documentation (in which case what kind).

    3. 11 times that Amazon provided footage from a camera without really asking any questions, and it could have been thousands except the police aren't well aware yet.

    4. 11 times Amazon provided access to a bunch of cameras at once, and it could have been thousands etc.

    5. 11 times Amazon provided access to a lot of cameras, and it could have been thousands, and those places still have ongoing access along with however many people got it last year.

    6. 11 times someone filled out the form to log a completed access request, but the form takes two hours to complete, isn't checked, and isn't required after granting access.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Some scope information would be useful

      "The 11 occasions is not a number I expected; I wouldn't have been surprised to see a number in the thousands. "

      Maybe the filth hasn't been told yet that it's possible to get Amazon to deliver that data. Let's see was the next year's numbers look like. I'd expect without tighter restrictions, it's going to go way up.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ring Ring

    Why don’t you give me a call?

    I think the guy across the street is selling bennys.

    He thinks the cops were bjorn yesterday!

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Ring Ring

      "He thinks the cops were bjorn yesterday!"

      Is this the same Bjorn that was reincarnated and Bjorn again?

  10. Mayday
    WTF?

    Encrypted at rest?

    It's not?

    Well that's a shit product then. What would be worse is if it were encrypted at rest, and Amazon was the custodian of the keys to decrypt it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    True But Misleading Assertion By Ring (aka Amazon).....

    Quote from Amazon: "...It's simply untrue that Ring gives anyone unfettered access to customer data or video..."

    Really? And of course, all this stuff is kept in one of those "secure" AWS places......

    ....which have never been hacked and subsequently published.....

    Yup...the quote is probably true....but what about the "unfettered access" that Ring and Amazon know nothing about?

    1. Snowy Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: True But Misleading Assertion By Ring (aka Amazon).....

      Quite a few many even all the times data was leak was because it was left unsecure due to the wrong tick box not being ticked.

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