At least 231 police departments around the country have partnered with Amazon’s home security company Ring, according to the most comprehensive map of the company’s partnerships to date. The map was created by Shreyas Gandlur, an incoming senior electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois. Each node is annotated with a link to a blog or social media post announcing a Ring partnership in a particular city.
The map, which was published on Gandlur’s blog, shows the extensive degree to which Ring has partnered with local law enforcement. Per these partnerships, police get access to Ring’s “Law Enforcement Neighborhoods Portal,” an interactive map that shows the approximate location of all Ring devices in a given area. Police can use the portal to post on Neighbors, Ring’s digital “neighborhood watch” app, and request Ring camera footage directly from camera-owners. In exchange, police are required to promote Ring products, either explicitly or implicitly.
Gandlur notes in a blog post that his map currently doesn’t include law enforcement agencies that are in the process of negotiating partnership agreements. It also currently doesn’t include cities that have Ring discount programs. As reported by Motherboard, these discount programs involve cities and towns paying Ring up to $100,000 in taxpayer money in order to subsidize Ring camera purchases for its residents.
He also noted that three new cities have signed onto Ring partnerships just this week: Boynton Beach, FL; San Marino, CA: and Buckeye, AZ. In other words, the map is likely incomplete and will need frequent updating. But Gandlur told Motherboard that he hopes to keep the map as up-to-date as possible.
“Local agencies have been making contracts for over 1.5 years about the Neighbors app, and we still don't have a complete picture about everyone who is partnered with them,” Gandlur said. “Even this map is woefully incomplete in all likelihood - the memo Gizmodo obtained was from April of this year, and there's new agencies joining almost every day.”
Gandlur said that he started to make the map last week after seeing recent Ring coverage from Motherboard and Gizmodo. He made the map as a personal project, without any institutional support. Gandlur said he started with a map showing Ring partnerships made by digital rights group Fight for the Future. He then scoured Twitter and Google for announcements of additional partnerships.
Ring has been notoriously secretive about how many partnerships it has with local law enforcement. In July, Gizmodo reported that Ring told police it has partnered with 225 law enforcement agencies. Earlier that month, Motherboard reported that Ring told police it has partnered with 200 law enforcement agencies, and Fight for the Future published a list of 31 cities known to have Ring partnerships.
Gandlur said that he’s troubled by Ring partnerships because local government transparency is "essential to our democratic institutions."
“It should be worrying to every single one of us that a single entity has so much control over local surveillance,” Gandlur said. “It's important to know who's in it if people want to lobby to get them out of the contract, and who's not in it, so people who want to can decide to lobby their governments to not sign new contracts.”
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