Amazon Is Using Prime Day to Lock People into a Giant Surveillance Network

Amazon is offering 30 to 40 percent discounts on Ring surveillance products for Prime Day. Think carefully about these products before going through with a purchase.

As a part of Prime Day, Amazon is offering a 30 percent discount on select Ring products, and a 39 percent discount on an eight-part set of Ring products.

Ring, which was acquired by Amazon in 2018, produces WiFi-powered home doorbell cameras, outdoor security cameras, and flood light cameras. Footage captured on these cameras can be posted on Neighbors, a free “neighborhood watch” app that lets people post about crime, safety, “suspicious” people, “strangers,” and lost pets.


However, Ring and Neighbors market themselves as a crime-fighting tools only by actively encouraging people to fear their neighbors. And by extension, Amazon positions itself as a company that can uniquely address these safety concerns stoked by Ring and Neighbors. Amazon uses Prime Day as a means of getting people to buy heavily discounted Amazon products that lock customers into their broader ecosystem. In this case, that includes Ring. But there are many reasons not to buy a ring. Here's a summary of Motherboard’s reporting on Ring and Neighbors:

1. A Smart Doorbell Company Is Working With Cops to Report ‘Suspicious’ People and Activities

Sarah Emerson, reporting about Ring and Neighbors in 2018, pointed out that the apps gives users the option of sharing footage from their Ring cameras directly with law enforcement.

2. Amazon’s Home Security Company Is Turning Everyone Into Cops

As reported by Caroline Haskins, Neighbors has a major problem with racial profiling. When Motherboard set the range to five miles surrounding Vice’s Williamsburg office and documenting every post for three months, Motherboard noted that most posts tagging “suspicious” people or “strangers” depict people of color.

3. Amazon’s Home Surveillance Company Is Putting Suspected Petty Thieves in its Advertisements

A Facebook ad for Ring shared footage of a woman suspected of a crime, as reported by Sammantha Cole. The ad also encouraged people to call police if they had information about this woman. In these ads, Ring positions itself as a vigilante force for local policing.


4. Amazon Is Hiring a News Editor for Its ‘Neighborhood Watch’ App

Amazon posted a job listing for a “News Editor” for the Neighbors app. As reported by Caroline Haskins, this job involves curating local “crime” posts that inform people about shootings, robberies, and fires in their area.

5. How Amazon Helped Cops Set Up a Package Theft Sting Operation

Amazon and Neighbors collaborated to set up a package theft sting operation in Hayward, CA, as reported by Caroline Haskins. Emails obtained by Motherboard show that Amazon sent fake packages, Amazon-branded tape, and lithium-ion stickers, while Ring sent free doorbell cameras to the Hayward, CA police. The Hayward Police Department also offered citizens a discount on Ring products.

6. How Amazon and the Cops Set Up an Elaborate Sting Operation That Accomplished Nothing

As reported by Caroline Haskins, Aurora, CO set up a similar package theft sting operation that involved Amazon, Ring, and a GPS-device manufacturer called 7P Solutions. Emails obtained by Motherboard show that all parties closely coordinated the public relations aspect of the operation. Citizens were offered free Ring products. An explicit goal of the operation was to capture an attempted-theft on a Ring camera, and arrest the person.

7. Amazon Provided Police with 'Heat Maps' of Package Theft for Sting Operation

Amazon and Ring collaborated on another package theft sting operation in Albuquerque, NM, as reported by Caroline Haskins. In this operation, Amazon created package loss heat maps for Albuquerque zip codes and provided them to police prior to carrying out the operation.

A Ring spokesperson said in an email to Motherboard that Ring’s mission is to “make neighborhoods safer.”

“We work towards this mission in a number of ways, including partnering with law enforcement agencies so they can share official, important crime and safety updates and work together with their local community through the Neighbors app,” the spokesperson said. “We are proud to have partnerships with many law enforcement agencies across the country and have taken care to design these partnerships in a way that keeps users in control. Users decide what footage is shared to the Neighbors app, and whether or not they want to share any footage or information with local law enforcement.”