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Ring Partnerships With Police Are ‘Troubling,’ Home Security Lobbyists Say

Home security trade organization The Monitoring Association said that it is troubled by reports of Ring partnerships with law enforcement that are designed to promote Ring products.

by Caroline Haskins
Aug 9 2019, 2:51pm

The Monitoring Association, a major non-profit trade organization representing home security companies, has released a statement saying it is “troubled” by partnerships between local law enforcement and Ring, Amazon’s home surveillance company.

The statement comes after extensive reporting by Motherboard and Gizmodo has revealed the scope and nature of these partnerships, which, in part, require police to promote Ring products either implicitly or explicitly.

Ring is a member of TMA, according to a TMA Organization Directory search conducted by Motherboard. Ring is listed in the directory as "Ring Protect Inc," its website (ring.com) is listed, and the address named in the listing matches the Santa Monica address on Ring's website. A TMA spokesperson declined to tell Motherboard whether Ring's membership status in TMA is in jeopardy as a result of its partnerships.

Notably, the press release—which was first reported by trade publication Security Sales & Integration—does not mention Ring by name. However, the file name of the press release provided to Motherboard was, “Final 080619 Ring PR,” clearly suggesting that Ring is the subject of the press release. Additionally, the statement references Ring-specific figures and information. For instance, it states that the company has partnered with “over 225 law enforcement agencies”—the same number that Gizmodo reported in July. Further reporting by researcher Shreyas Gandlur has found that the number of partnerships is at least 231.

The statement claims that TMA wants to “raise awareness” of Ring’s practices.

“We are troubled by recent reports of agreements that are said to drive product-specific promotion, without alerting consumers about these marketing relationships,” Ivan Spector, president of TMA, said in a press release shared with Motherboard. “This lack of transparency goes against our standards as an industry, diminishes public trust, and takes advantage of these public servants. Trust is at the heart of our business, and only by establishing and abiding by clear best practices to be transparent while balancing the various public interests can we effectively navigate these waters.”

"Ring will always innovate on behalf of its users to help make neighborhoods safer, and that includes building tools for users to better connect and communicate with the law enforcement agencies that serve them while upholding our users’ rights to choose their level of participation,” Ring said in an email statement.

The press release notes that Ring doorbell footage can be accessed at any time by the company’s employees, who are mostly based in Ukraine, as reported by The Intercept and The Information. The press release also refers to the “Law Enforcement Neighborhoods Portal.” The portal an interactive map that displays the approximate location of all Ring cameras in a certain area. Police can use it to request footage directly from camera-owners. Camera owners have to give police permission to access their footage, but police don’t need a warrant to make the request.

"This is pretty embarrassing for Ring, honestly," Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, said in an email statement. "When an industry association that represents security and surveillance camera companies thinks that your practices are too invasive and lack transparency, that really says something. This should be setting off alarm bells for local elected officials in the hundreds of cities that already have these partnerships."

Fight for the Future recently launched a petition campaign to help people demand that their local governments and police departments stop their partnerships with Ring. People can sign petitions calling on their local mayor and city council representatives to forbid police from partnering with Ring, or to end existing Ring partnerships.

Got a tip about Ring discount programs, police partnerships, or something else? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact Caroline Haskins securely on Signal on +1 (785) 813-1084, or via email at caroline.haskins@vice.com.