Today I heard that Amazon has a form so that the police can get my data without permission or a warrant

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Here’s something I didn’t know when I bought Amazon Ring cameras and Amazon Echo Dots: There’s a web page where law enforcement officers can fill out a form, say there’s a life-threatening emergency, and access your data without your permission, a judicial order or warrant. There’s nothing in the Terms of Service about this, and the company has been claiming for years that it helps the police get permission first, but it happens anyway.

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In the past seven months alone, Amazon has provided private Ring videos to law enforcement 11 times, the company told Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) in a July 1 letter and delivered to the press this week.

Here are Markey’s questions and Amazon’s answers about them specifically:

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Today i heard that amazon has a form so that

(Markey is focused on Ring, which has its own dedicated form (PDF) for law enforcement to fill out, but we found that parent company Amazon has the same policy and its own request site. While Ring’s best-known products are cameras that look at the outside of your home, both Ring and Amazon sell gadgets that can see and hear in your home.)

Maybe Amazon’s answers seem perfectly reasonable to you? It’s possible that each of these 11 times in 2022 (and how many times in 2021 and earlier) was a legitimate life-threatening emergency, the police knew it, Amazon knew it, and maybe the company even saved lives by doing this.

But for that you have to trust that both the police and an unknown department within Amazon have everyone’s interests in mind. Trust in the police and their surveillance tools is not high these days for obvious reasons – and Markey suggested The Interception that Amazon has also lost the benefit of the doubt.

“This disclosure is particularly troubling, as the company has previously admitted that it has no policy on how law enforcement can use Ring users’ images, no data security requirements for law enforcement agencies holding user images, and no policy prohibiting law enforcement. agents to preserve Ring users’ images forever,” he told The interception.

It appears to be true that federal law allows Amazon to disclose this type of information to a government agency — “if the provider has a good faith belief that an emergency involving life or serious bodily harm to an individual requires immediate disclosure.” direct quote from 18 U.S. § 2702(b) (8).But it says providers “may” do this, not that they should, and it’s not clear if anything would stop bad actors at Amazon or in law enforcement from doing so abusing a system that lacks clear oversight.

As of today, it’s not clear whether owners would ever know that their Ring camera footage, for example, was viewed by police and may have been kept for months or years afterwards. Will they find out afterwards? It’s not clear who at Amazon would make these good faith decisions, or whether Amazon employees are viewing the footage or trust law enforcement alone to do so.

We asked these questions, but Amazon spokesperson Mai Nguyen said they couldn’t answer them, instead writing, “It’s just not true that Ring gives everyone unlimited access to customer data or video” — something we didn’t propose. – while reiterating the Company’s belief that it is authorized to provide this information if it believes there is a life-threatening emergency or threat of serious injury.

Amazon is increasingly engaging with law enforcement agencies in the United States with its Ring doorbell cameras, once using law enforcement as a marketing tool to sell more of them. It has partnered with 2,161 law enforcement agencies to date, in addition to fire departments. It’s not at all clear if getting Ring images has actually helped law enforcement with cases: in 2020 NBC News research suggested they largely hadn’t.

If you have a wired Ring camera, you can enable the company’s end-to-end encryption for your video streams, but Amazon doesn’t offer that feature on its popular battery-powered models. Amazon is also refusing to make end-to-end encryption the standard for its Ring cameras. “We are committed to giving customers options so they can choose the Ring experience that’s right for them,” writes Brian Huseman, Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, as if opting out of encryption instead of signing people in on one or the other way less. options.

On the Echo/Alexa side, you also have to sign up to delete your recordings if you’re careful. Apple, meanwhile, committed in 2019 to no longer save Siri recordings by default.

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