Ring no longer allowing police to request users’ doorbell video footage


Ring is one of the most popular doorbell/camera security systems available, allowing users to monitor activity on the outside of their property. These cameras also frequently capture traffic and other activity on the streets, making the footage they capture potentially valuable to law enforcement when investigating crimes. But now, the company is changing its longstanding policy of allowing the police to request footage from users. The “Neighbors” app will no longer offer that option. The question is why, particularly during a time of rising crime and unrest, they would make such a change. 

From  Straight Arrow News:

Ring’s “Neighbors” app will no longer allow police to ask users for doorbell footage. The app was seen as an easy, accessible way for law enforcement to ask neighbors in a certain vicinity for surveillance that could help them solve a crime. Thursday, Jan. 25, Ring announced police and other public safety agencies can no longer request such surveillance.

Some critics argued the requests were a violation of users’ privacy before Ring adjusted its policies. Ring has been evolving its policies over police accessibility.

Police were previously able to send private messages to users asking if they had footage that may have captured a crime or person of interest on their camera.

Ring even promoted partnerships with local police departments where police touted how helpful it was to have a direct line to its community.

It’s difficult to describe how much of a turnaround this is for Ring. Originally, Ring partnered with police departments, allowing them to send private messages to users requesting video footage from a particular time period. Then, in 2021, Ring disabled the ability of the police to send DMs but still allowed them to make public posts requesting help. Now, even that ability has been removed. The police have effectively been thrown off of the app.

But why? It appears that Ring has been caving to the demands of anti-police groups that are supposedly concerned with “protecting the digital privacy” of citizens. One of these is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which praised the recent decision while complaining that it had taken too long to come about. They decried “casual and warrantless police requests for footage,”

These are nonsensical accusations. Ring cameras are designed to monitor the outside of a person’s home, not the private, interior spaces, so nobody’s privacy is endangered. When you step outside your home onto your sidewalk or porch, you are in public and people can see you. You shouldn’t be doing anything out there that you don’t want others to see.

As to the “warrantless” part of the complaint, police only need a warrant if they are requesting something that you might not want to voluntarily give up. There is nothing wrong with the police politely requesting help with any evidence that a neighbor might have, including surveillance footage. Every user has the option of saying no or simply ignoring the request. And that’s all the police have traditionally done. They ask people for help. They don’t demand it.

This aspect of the debate speaks to the fundamental reasons people have for installing Ring systems in the first place. Why would you bother recording activity outside of your home unless you planned to report suspicious actors to law enforcement? Does Ring imagine that its users should be forming up posess to go out and engage in vigilante justice? If you catch someone in the act of committing a crime on your property, you would presumably like to see them apprehended. And if you’re any sort of good neighbor, you would want to help others in your community do the same. That means getting the cops involved.

This entire change smells of more anti-cop, defund-the-police nonsense. Crime is on the rise and everyone is now familiar with the concept of “porch pirates.” Ring is one tool that citizens can use to try to fight back. But all Ring is doing is making the job of the cops harder. This was a terrible decision and I hope they rethink it.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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