Smart home feeds are a fantastic way to catch criminals in the act, but if mishandled, it gives agencies the power to spy on residents without their permission or knowledge. So now, Amazon has declared that if the police want to use Nest footage to solve a crime, they must do so in a public and easily accessible way.
Amazon’s New Terms for Ring
Amazon announced the change on the official Ring blog. The e-commerce giant declared that if law enforcement or the fire department wanted to use Ring data in an investigation, they must make a public declaration.
This data collection feature doesn’t affect every single owner of a Ring product to clear things up. Rather, it’s part of an opt-in scheme called Ring Neighbors, which helps keep communities safe.
The idea behind Ring Neighbors is pretty smart. You have all these homes in a neighborhood, and they have various smart devices to monitor what’s going on outside the front door. Ring Neighbors combines everyone’s data and uses the result to paint a picture of what’s happening on a community level. So it’s essentially a community-run CCTV system.
As you might expect, law enforcement is really keen to use this data to better further public safety. However, this causes a privacy issue—if Amazon hands the data over to the police without the users knowing, agencies may use the information to spy on people.
That’s why Amazon has now created “Request for Assistance.” When something happens in a community, the law enforcement can call on users on Neighbors through a Request for Assistance. People can then submit photos and videos to aid with the investigation.
Everything submitted to an agency can be seen by everyone in the Neighbors app. Even after the investigation is finished, users can bring up an agency’s profile and see all the information sent to them and how the agency used it.
To prevent Neighbors from becoming a hotpot for harvesting personal information, Amazon will only allow public safety agencies to make a profile and post on Request for Assistance. And any data requests they make cannot be too broad or wishy-washy to prevent oversharing.
Amazon has an in-depth help center for Public Safety Agencies on Neighbors, so if you have any concerns or burning questions, give it a read and see if it helps.
Keeping Communities Safe, Physically and Digitally
Ring Neighbors is a smart idea that combines the power of everyone’s smart homes to solve crimes, but the idea can be very easily abused. Amazon wants to stop that happening by introducing new terms within Neighbors about how data is collected.
Amazon has been keen to bring communities together into one big smart mesh. For instance, Amazon Sidewalk allows neighborhoods to bring their devices together and support one another.