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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, and Amazon

The executives in charge of Amazon's Ring doorbells insist their products are making the world better and safer, largely dismissing concerns they are helping lay the foundation for a police surveillance state.

Why it matters: Civil rights groups and others have criticized the company for both its security practices and its close ties with law enforcement.

Background: Ring, which makes internet-connected doorbells and other connected "smart home" devices, has been criticized for both the security of its products and its Neighbors app, which allows first responders to request footage from camera owners.

What they're saying: "I don't think any of the concerns I saw were reasonable," Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff told Axios in an interview at CES. "What we are doing is a good, beneficial thing."

  • Siminoff said the company has helped reunite kidnapped children with their families, recover lost pets and get guns off the street.
  • Amazon senior vice president Dave Limp also pointed to improvements the company has made to its software, including the ability for customers to decline all requests for footage from law enforcement, and a move last year that allows customers to choose which portions of their camera's view they want access to.

Yes, but: All that puts the onus on customers and law enforcement to use the technology appropriately.

Critics rejected the notion that Ring's products are making the world safer.

  • "Ring's business model is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and basic human rights." Fight for the Future's Evan Greer told Axios. "A world full of cheap, insecure, privately owned surveillance devices is not a safer world for the majority of people on this planet."

Between the lines: While customers have control of what is or isn't recorded and shared, they aren't the ones in the footage.

  • "Ring giving their users more privacy features doesn't help the person who lives across from a Ring owner whose camera is looking in their window, or the children in the playground across the street from a Ring doorbell," Greer said.

The bottom line: These controversies don't appear to be having an impact on Ring sales.

  • "Ring had a great holiday," Limp said, adding it was a record for not only Ring's smart doorbells, but also its companion lighting products.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

Biden's ethics end-around for labor

President Biden surveys a water treatment plant during a visit to New Orleans today. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is excusing top officials from ethics rules that would otherwise restrict their work with large labor unions that previously employed them, federal records show.

Why it matters: Labor's sizable personnel presence in the administration is driving policy, and the president's appointment of top union officials to senior posts gives those unions powerful voices in the federal bureaucracy — even at the cost of strictly adhering to his own stringent ethics standards.