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Ring Discontinues App Police Use to Request Video Footage


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By Jorge Casuso

February 5, 2024 -- Ring's announcement that police will no longer be able to request users' doorbell footage on its Neighbors app will have some impact on crime investigations, Santa Monica police officials said Monday.

Ring announced it is "sunsetting" the Request for Assistance (RFA) tool on the app and adding new features that focus less on crime, according to a January 24 press release.

Public safety agencies "will no longer be able to use the RFA tool to request and receive video in the app," said Eric Kuhn, head of Ring's Neighbors app.

"Public safety agency posts are still public, and will be available for users to view on the Neighbors app feed and on the agency's profile," Kuhn said.

Police Department spokesperson Erika Aklufi said SMPD uses "Ring video often in our investigations."

But she added that the video footage is "usually obtained when our officers canvass a neighborhood and request it directly from the Ring owner."

"I believe our detectives have utilized the neighborhood app in the past, and this new regulation will stymie their efforts to some extent," Aklufi said.

"However, we can still obtain video via subpoena or the way we have relied on in the past of going door to door."

In 2018, the Santa Monica-based company launched the Neighbors app, which allows users to share footage captured on their doorbell cameras.

Until Ring made police requests for user video public in 2021, public safety agencies needed to message users privately to request footage from their doorbell cameras.

Since launching the app and partnering with hundreds of police departments nationwide, the company has drawn criticism from privacy advocates.

They contend the company;'s products and policies encourage neighbors to inform on each other and increase the risk of racial profiling.

In 2019, Ring's parent company, Amazon, disclosed the criteria used to accept requests for video from police departments in response to privacy concerns raised by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.

"Local police may only seek assistance with the investigation of a specific crime, and our Neighbors Portal technology will not allow police to proceed with their request without a case number," Amazon wrote.

Although the company sets parameters for the information requested, it does not require police departments to provide evidence that access to this footage will help address a specific crime, according to the responses to Sen. Markey's concerns.

The company also said it "does not disclose customer information in response to government demands unless required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order, such as a search warrant; or in an exigent or emergency circumstance."

In a statement, Markey said Amazon's responses show a "lack of privacy and civil rights protections for innocent residents (that) is nothing short of chilling.”

Ring's press release last month said the company's public safety agency posts "are still public, and will be available for users to view on the Neighbors app feed and on the agency's profile."

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