By Dell Cameron and Dhruv Mehrotra
As reporters raced this summer to bring new details of Ring’s law enforcement contracts to light, the home security company, acquired last year by Amazon for a whopping $1 billion, strove to underscore the privacy it had pledged to provide users.
Even as its creeping objective of ensuring an ever-expanding network of home security devices eventually becomes indispensable to daily police work, Ring promised its customers would always have a choice in “what information, if any, they share with law enforcement.” While it quietly toiled to minimize what police officials could reveal about Ring’s police partnerships to the public, it vigorously reinforced its obligation to the privacy of its customers—and to the users of its crime-alert app, Neighbors.
However, a Gizmodo investigation, which began last month and ultimately revealed the potential locations of up to tens of thousands of Ring cameras, has cast new doubt on the effectiveness of the company’s privacy safeguards. It further offers one of the most “striking” and “disturbing” glimpses yet, privacy experts said, of Amazon’s privately run, omni-surveillance shroud that’s enveloping U.S. cities.
Dan Calacci, a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab, has been performing separate ongoing research to understand what makes a community “more likely to engage in self-surveillance” and has amassed a far bigger database of Ring camera locations. He shared a preview of his research with Gizmodo, including a map representing every Ring video posted to Neighbors since 2017.