Ring surely had good intentions when it formed video-sharing partnerships with local law-enforcement agencies several years ago. That partnership allowed the police to send requests for video recordings to owners of Ring video doorbells and security cameras, but privacy and surveillance concerns have been simmering ever since. Today, the company took further steps to alleviate those issues.
In a blog post published this morning, Ring announced a new effort to increase transparency related to its dealings with the police and other public safety agencies. Starting next week, any law enforcement agency looking to enlist help from the users of the Ring Neighbors app must do so by posting a publicly viewable “Request for Assistance.” You can see an example, below.
These posts will appear in the Neighbors app feed and can be posted only by “verified public safety agency profiles.” Ring says it has guidelines in place to “prevent overly broad requests,” and all public safety agencies must by abide by Ring’s Request for Assistance Policy Guidelines, which are outlined at Ring’s Help Center.
Ring says Request for Assistance posts are opt-in, and that “nothing is shared with any agency unless you actively go through the steps of choosing to do so.” Ring Neighbors users will be able to remove these requests from their own feeds, and if you’ve previously opted-out of Ring’s video-request program, you won’t be notified when a Request for Assistance is posted.
Users who do elect to share videos with a public agency will do so by clicking on a secure link, and the agency’s contact information will be listed in the post in case they want to contact them directly.
Ring could have saved itself a lot of grief by instituting policies and practices such as this at the outset, but the company seems to have learned from its mistakes.
Michael is TechHive's lead editor, with 30+ years of experience covering the tech industry, focusing on the smart home, home audio, and home theater. He built his own smart home in 2007 and used it as a real-world test lab for product reviews. Following a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, he is now converting his new home, an 1890 Victorian bungalow, into a modern smart home.