Oct 8, 2019

Police deals with Amazon's Ring under fire over surveillance concerns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chorus of civil rights and privacy groups is calling on U.S. cities to end partnerships with Amazon's Ring camera unit, saying the deals raise a range of privacy, discrimination and other concerns.

Why it matters: Per the Washington Post, more than 400 agencies have deals with the Amazon subsidiary.

Driving the news: More than 30 civil rights and privacy groups have signed an open letter calling for an end to such deals, saying the partnerships "threaten civil liberties, privacy and civil rights, and exist without oversight or accountability."

"The letter calls for future deals to involve "community engagement" and approval by elected officials."

"To that end, we call on mayors and city councils to require police departments to cancel any and all existing Amazon Ring partnerships, and to pass surveillance oversight ordinances that will deter police departments from entering into such agreements in the future."
— Open letter from 30+ civil rights groups

How it works:

  • Ring has been striking deals with cities that give their police agencies access to a map of Ring cameras from which they can request footage. Per Vice, Ring often gets the agencies involved in the marketing of the Amazon security cameras, either directly or indirectly.
  • Concerns with the deals include everything from a lack of transparency, to the fact that taxpayer money is sometimes used to buy or subsidize devices to the potential for racial profiling and discrimination.
  • You can see a map of some of the cities with Ring deals here.

The big picture: Alliances between law enforcement and tech companies, such as Palantir's contracts with local police departments, have a history of raising hackles, and rising concerns in the U.S. over privacy have put some consumers on edge about tech that tracks their moves.

  • Meanwhile, authoritarian governments around the world — from China to the Middle East — are racing to deploy advanced technology like facial recognition combined with video surveillance to cow dissent.

What they're saying:

  • Evan Greer, deputy director, Fight for the Future: "Amazon is building a for-profit surveillance empire that completely skirts the democratic process. These partnerships are spreading extremely fast."
  • Alex Marthews, national chair of Restore The Fourth, in a statement: “This isn't about fighting actual crime. This is about the paranoid and mostly white notion that owners of homes and businesses aren't safe unless the police are pro-actively watching every square inch of public space."
  • Amazon: "Ring's mission is to help make neighborhoods safer. We work towards this mission in a number of ways, including providing a free tool that can help build stronger relationships between communities and their local law enforcement agencies. We have taken care to design these features in a way that keeps users in control and protects their privacy. "

Go deeper: Tech trade groups oppose facial recognition ban

Go deeper

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.