Amazon’s Ring business has been drawing headlines for its partnerships with police departments nationwide. These arrangements are mutually beneficial: law enforcement gets access to a sprawling, growing surveillance network it doesn’t have to maintain, and Ring gets a marketing boost to sell its products. Reporters and security researchers have been trying for months to figure out exactly how many of these partnerships Ring has, but the company has been mum on the matter—until today.
The company in a blog post today said it has 405 agreements with police and sheriffs departments around the country, and it shared a map showing where all of them are. Ring also promises to update the map as new agencies sign on.
The blog post also hints at some of the controversy Ring has been courting with these partnerships lately, promising the company has “been thoughtful about designing how law enforcement engages with the Neighbors app to ensure users always stay in control of the information they share and that their privacy is protected.”
More than expected
The previous best estimates of Ring partnerships with police have come from a handful of media reports. Gizmodo in July reported at least 225 such partnerships existed, and at the start of August, Vice Motherboard said it knew of at least 231. Researcher Shreyas Gandlur on August 8 launched an effort to pinpoint all of the known partnerships on a map; by yesterday, he had learned of 358.
Ring is integrated with an app called Neighbors, which has some similarities to NextDoor but with everything except the crime reports and racism stripped out. In areas where Ring has police partnerships, law enforcement has access to a backend portal that gives them the ability to view an approximate map of camera locations in a given zone and request footage from users if they are investigating an incident nearby.
A series of recent reports, largely using documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, has found that as part of these partnerships, Ring actively encourages police to push for “engagement” with the community through the Neighbors app. Ring also provides templates for and signs off on press releases and social media posts police departments use to talk about the company, and it has specifically asked law enforcement in at least one case not to use the words “surveillance” or “security camera” to describe the security cameras it sells and the surveillance network it has built.