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Ring Has Given ‘Active Camera’ Maps of Its Customers to Police

Several months before Ring donated 80 Ring doorbells to the Gwinnett County Police Department, Ring gave two maps of “active” Ring cameras in the county to police.

by Caroline Haskins
Sep 5 2019, 5:55pm

Image: Collage of active camera maps given to police and a Ring camera from Wikimedia Commons.

Ring, Amazon’s home surveillance company, has consistently told Motherboard and other reporters that it does not share maps showing the exact locations of camera-owners with police.

However, a map published by The Guardian last week reveals that Ring gave Georgia's Gwinnett County Police Department, located just northeast of Atlanta, an “active camera” map that shows hundreds of dots representing the locations of Ring owners in the region.

Now, emails and documents obtained from the police department by Motherboard provide additional context. The emails reveal that the image was one of two maps showing active Ring cameras in Gwinnett County. (One of the maps is slightly more zoomed-in than the other.)

The maps were provided several months before Ring donated 80 video doorbells to the county worth a total of $15,920, according to documents reviewed by Motherboard. The emails reviewed by Motherboard show the maps were shared with Gwinnett County in order to show that a Ring partnership would give them possible access to a large amount of data.

“Gwinnett County has an incredible amount of Ring devices and neighbors using the Ring app,” a Ring representative told Gwinnett County police. “At no cost, the portal can be an incredible asset to your agency Please let me know what you think.”

“Thank you for taking the time to sit through the webinar today,” a Ring representative told Gwinnett County police a few days later. “It would be an unbelievable accomplishment to have the Gwinnett County Police Department using the Neighbors Portal. Attached, I have added the [Memorandum of Understanding] to be reviewed by Legal and a screenshot of your active camera map.”

Active user maps shared by Ring to the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Image: The two active camera maps that were shared by Ring with the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Ring has repeatedly told Motherboard that its Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal—which allows at least 405 police departments to request camera footage directly from owners—gives police access to approximate user location but not exact location.

Ring also told Motherboard for a previous article that it does not “individually map people who redeem discount codes” as a part of its camera discount programs with cities. However, the “active camera map” provided to Gwinnett County police suggests that Ring is mapping its users on a much broader basis than prior reporting has ever suggested.

In some cases, the emails from Gwinnett County prove, Ring shares these maps with police in order to entice them into partnering with the company. Ring did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment, which included questions about how often the company provides these maps.

Do you know the answers to these questions? Got a tip about Ring discount programs, police partnerships, or something else? You can contact Caroline Haskins securely on Signal on +1 (785) 813-1084, or via email at caroline.haskins@vice.com.

As reported by The Guardian, in the months after this email was sent, the legal departments of Ring and the Gwinnett County Police Department went back and forth dozens of times negotiating the exact terms of their partnership. Ring proposed several agreement terms that were removed in later drafts.

For instance, the original Memorandum of Understanding proposed by Ring explicitly required the Gwinnett County Police Department to promote Ring products. Like the MOU signed by the police department of Lakeland, Florida, the agreement requires police to “encourage adoption of the platform/app.”

It also stipulated that Ring must “work with Gwinnett to obtain data/call logs and publish the relevant incidents in the app based on terms agreed to with Gwinnett.”

As reported by Gizmodo, Ring sometimes tap into police departments’ computer-aided dispatch (CAD) feeds, which includes data provided by 911 callers, and information about the person who made the call, like name, address, and other information. Ring uses this information to make “News Alerts” about crime in Neighbors, the company’s “neighborhood watch” app.

“If your CAD is private then yes we are asking [Gwinnett County Police Department] to push the data to us (often through xml)” a Ring representative told Gwinnett County police, “but if the GCPD has an API available that works too.”

Motherboard obtained an internal Ring document about its real-time Computer Aided Dispatch Data program, which was provided to Gwinnett County Police. The document says, “Our in-house news team monitors every alert that comes through out system and determines if they are relevant crime & safety incidents to send out to impacted neighborhoods.”

Page two of the CAD informational document provided by Ring to police.
Image: Page two of the CAD informational document provided by Ring to police.

All of the documents that informed this article are now public and viewable on Document Cloud. See Motherboard’s Ring topic page for our most recent reporting about the company.

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