Skip to main content

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

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Here is something I didn’t know when I purchased Amazon Ring cameras and Amazon Echo Dots: there is a webpage where law enforcement can fill out a form, say there’s a life-threatening emergency, and get access to your data without your consent, a court order, or any kind of warrant. There’s nothing in the Terms of Service about this, and the company has maintained for years that it helps police get consent first, but it’s happening anyhow.

Over 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 letter dated July 1st and provided to press this week.

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

(Markey is focused on Ring, which has its own specific form (pdf) that law enforcement can fill out, but we discovered parent company Amazon has the same policy and a request site of its own. While Ring’s best-known products are cameras that face the outside of your home, both Ring and Amazon sell gadgets that can see and hear inside your home.)

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

But that requires you to trust that both the police and some unknown department within Amazon have everyone’s best interests in mind. Trust in police and their surveillance tools isn’t high these days for obvious reasons — and Markey suggested to The Intercept that Amazon has also lost the benefit of the doubt.

“This revelation is particularly troubling given that the company has previously admitted to having no policies that restrict how law enforcement can use Ring users’ footage, no data security requirements for law enforcement entities that have users’ footage, and no policies that prohibit law enforcement officers from keeping Ring users’ footage forever,” he told The Intercept.

It does seem to be true that federal law lets Amazon give this kind of information to a government agency — “if the provider, in good faith, believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay.” That’s a direct quote from 18 US § 2702 (b) (8). But it says that providers “may” do so, not that they must do so, and it’s not clear if anything would keep bad actors at Amazon or in law enforcement from abusing a system which has no obvious oversight.

As of today, it’s not clear whether owners would ever know that their Ring camera footage, as one example, was accessed by police and potentially saved for months or years afterward. Do they get told afterwards? It’s not clear who at Amazon would make these good faith determinations, or whether Amazon employees watch the footage or just trust law enforcement to do so.

We asked these questions, but Amazon spokesperson Mai Nguyen said they couldn’t answer them, instead writing that “It’s simply untrue that Ring gives anyone unfettered access to customer data or video” — something we didn’t suggest — while repeating the company’s belief that it’s authorized to provide this information if it believes there’s a life-threatening emergency or the threat of serious injury.

Amazon has been increasingly cozying up to law enforcement across the United States with its Ring doorbell cameras, at one time using law enforcement as a marketing tool to help sell more of them. It’s partnered with 2,161 law enforcement agencies to date, in addition to fire departments. It is not at all clear that obtaining Ring footage has actually helped law enforcement with cases: in 2020, an NBC News investigation suggested they largely hadn’t.

If you have a wired Ring camera, you can turn on the company’s end-to-end encryption for your video streams, but Amazon does not offer that feature on its popular battery powered models. Amazon also refuses to make end-to-end encryption the default for its Ring cameras. “We are committed to giving customers options so they can choose the Ring experience that is right for them,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s VP of public policy, writes, as if making encryption opt-out instead of opt-in would somehow give people fewer options.

On the Echo / Alexa side of things, you also have to opt-in to delete your recordings if you’re being cautious. Apple, meanwhile, committed in 2019 to no longer keeping Siri recordings by default.



Source: The Verge

Popular posts from this blog

Uber Eats exits seven markets, transfers one as part of competitive retooling

Uber Eats is pulling out of a clutch of markets — shuttering its on-demand food offering in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine. It’s also transferring its Uber Eats business operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem, its wholly owned ride-hailing subsidiary that’s mostly focused on the Middle East. “Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” it writes in a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts. “These decisions were made as part of the Company’s ongoing strategy to be in first or second position in all Eats markets by leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others,” the filing adds. An Uber spokesman said the changes are not related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather related to an ongoing “strategy of record” for the company to hold a first or s

Keep your Oculus Quest controllers going strong with these batteries

The Touch Controllers for the Oculus Quest 2 ship with one disposable AA battery each, but once those run out of juice, you should invest in the best Oculus Quest 2 replacement batteries to fill in for them. While the Touch Controllers last much longer than the headset's limited battery, it's still wise to invest in some rechargeable batteries or a stack of disposable batteries to stop your VR sessions from getting disrupted. Here are the batteries and chargers we recommend for your Oculus Touch controllers. Best rechargable batteries + charger Panasonic K-KJ55MCA4BA 3 Hour Quick Charger with 4 AA eneloop Rechargeable Batteries Staff Pick These rechargeable batteries store up to 2,000 mAh of power and can be recharged up to 2,100 times. They can be charged completely from dead or partially charged without damaging the energy storage memory. We recommend buying them with the quick charger accessory, which will get your AAs recharged in no time, but you can also purchas

These Android games support Bluetooth controllers and they're better for it

Gaming is simply better with a controller in your hands. Gaming on Android typically requires you to settle for using touchscreen controls. However, some gracious game developers take the time and effort to add support for Bluetooth gamepads— and we love them for it. Since so few games provide this feature, we've taken the time to test and compiled our list of the best games that let you play with the best Bluetooth controller in your hands. We'd also recommend getting a Style Ring or PopSocket which can help prop your phone up at a good angle for gaming. You might recognize some of these games from the best Android games roundup and for good reason. But you're here for the best games with controller support, after all, so here I present to you the best you can find on the Play Store. The games Call of Duty Mobile GRID Autosport Tesla vs Lovecraft Evoland 2 Horizon Chase World Tour Riptide GP: Renegade Modern Combat 5: Blackout GTA: San Andreas Oceanhor

What ancient advice can teach us about AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant have become indispensable to millions of users. Tesla Autopilot has the potential to change driving forever. And IBM Watson took a new job providing big data solutions to corporations after its first job was in jeopardy. Those are just the most prominent examples. Helpful applications of AI are being deployed in a broad spectrum of industries, but AI also has the potential to be misused. About the author  Jason Egnal is Chief Marketing Officer at Zenfolio . His background spans a variety of industries, including SaaS, AI, Fintech and Consumer Electronics.  Zenfolio, the website builder and photo sharing site , recently introduced technology that applies AI to assist photographers in selecting the best photos from the thousands of shots typically taken during a photo session. The advanced image recognition technology is tremendously powerful and can make photographers more efficient than they ever d