Corporate surveillance of the commons + Amazon Ring

Dan Calacci

As of August 2020, Ring has active partnerships with over 1400 law enforcement agencies across the US. These partnerships allow law enforcement agencies to use the "Neighbors Portal," an extension of Ring's surveillance-as-a-social-network Neighbors App. The portal gives law enforcement the ability to make posts and comment on videos that users share to the app, but it also allows them to "submit requests for video recordings." The partnerships also give law enforcement the ability to offer subsidized ring cameras to residents, and training on how to successfully solicit videos from Ring users.

If Ring is part of "the new neighborhood watch," shouldn't we know where they're looking? Beyond knowing which law enforcement agencies have partnered with Ring, researchers, policymakers, and activists have very little information about how Amazon's growing surveillance network is spreading.

To answer questions about Ring's spread and its presence in neighborhoods around the US, we're using the API that Ring uses to deliver data to its Neighbors smartphone app to pull all the alerts that have been posted to their "social network" since the beginning of 2017.

To understand what makes a neighborhood more or less likely to use Ring's surveillance service, we are using spatial modeling techniques at the county level to predict Ring camera density from demographic and crime data. 

To test Ring's claims that their service helps public safety, we are using point-level data to test the effects of adoption and use of Ring cameras on crime solve rates in certain cities. 

We are also making tools that provide policymakers and activists with crucial information about neighborhood surveillance spread to inform policymaking and direct action.