The doorbell-camera company Ring has forged video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them potential access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls the nation’s “new neighborhood watch.”
The partnerships let police request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said. Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place.”In the emails, Ring described a system in which a 911 call would trigger the cameras on Ring doorbells near the site of the call. The cameras would start recording and streaming video that police could then use to investigate an incident. Owners of the Ring devices would have to opt in to the system, the emails said.
“Currently, our cameras record based on motion alerts,” Steve Sebestyen, vice president of business development for Ring, said in an email that obtained through a public records request. “However, we are working with interested agencies and cities to expand the device owners controls to allow for situations where a CFS [call-for-service] event triggers recording within the proximity of an event.”
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The sheriff’s department in San Diego County joined Ring’s network in February, after several months of negotiations with the company. Included in the negotiations was a request from Ring for real-time 911 call data from the sheriff’s department, which serves more than 3 million people across 4,200 square miles. Ring also asked the law enforcement agency to install code on its dispatch systems that could pull real-time information on 911 calls for burglaries, car break-ins, robberies, shots fired, shootings, stabbings and hostage situations. “One of the major concerns that Ring has been reassuring about is that there would be no real-time watching from authorities on your doorbell,” Electronic Frontier Foundation policy analyst Matthew Guariglia said. “And now that comes with a caveat. If they opt in to this program, that control is stripped away from them any time there’s a 911 call in their vicinity.”