Stories

The surveillance camera next door

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Get ready for a debate over the role of private security cameras, particularly the doorbell cameras used in services like Ring and Nest, owned by Amazon and Google, respectively.

What's happening: Law enforcement and cities actively subsidize Ring cameras, in exchange for potential access to the footage, the AP reports. And some departments use Ring’s Neighbors app, which encourages residents to share videos of suspicious activity.

  • Law enforcement describe the footage as a digital neighborhood watch.

Why it matters: The reason for cameras is understandable. Packages get stolen off doorsteps and suspicious people might come to your door — or you just want to remotely let in a guest or service worker.

The big picture: The increasing worry is that the cameras will turn neighborhoods into places of constant surveillance — with the heaviest cost imposed on people of color.

  • Law enforcement and Ring stress that sharing the content is voluntary, but its existence means a search warrant is always a possibility.

The bottom line: "Tech that seems like an obvious good can develop darker dimensions as capabilities improve and data shifts into new hands," WashPost's Geoffrey Fowler wrote earlier this year.

  • "A terms-of-service update, a face-recognition upgrade or a hack could turn your doorbell into a privacy invasion you didn’t see coming."