Pilot Program In Jackson, Miss. Lets Police Live-Stream Ring Doorbells

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JACKSON, Miss. — There has been no shortage of controversy over the past year or so regarding Ring and its relationship with police departments across the country.

It all started last summer when a report was released that said Ring had essentially enlisted law enforcement as salespeople for its video doorbells.

The latest hubbub comes from Mississippi’s capital, where the city approved a 45-day pilot program that will give police real-time access to Ring video doorbells.

Traditionally, in certain communities where police partnered with Ring, law enforcement could request access to doorbell footage if a crime occurred in the area (and that particular user opted in to the program). However, this pilot program would allow police to live-stream video footage immediately.

It should be noted that users would also have to opt in to the pilot program. Nevertheless, privacy concerns still abound. Although the video doorbell belongs to the home or business owner, it is aimed away from the home. That means it is more likely to capture an innocent passerby or neighbor than the owner.

It should also be noted that this program doesn’t have any involvement with Ring or its parent company, Amazon. It is being run and funded by PILEUM, an information and technology consulting company based here, and Fusus, a Georgia-based company that provides Cloud services to allow real-time crime centers to extract video information.

According to Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the program will prevent the city from having to buy a camera for locations across the city. “We’ll be able to get a location, draw a circle around it and pull up every camera within a certain radius to see if someone runs out of a building,” he told WLBT-TV. “We can follow and trace them.”

What makes this program especially surprising is the fact that Jackson became the first city in the South to ban police from using facial recognition technology just a few months ago.

Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group in the area of digital rights, made a good point when he told Motherboard, “A more traditional surveillance camera company, when they go to a business to set up cameras, they ensure that cameras are positioned correctly to comply with those types of laws so they don’t get sued.”

He continued, “Ring just sends it to a homeowner in a box, you stick it on your door, and somewhere buried in their terms of service they admit you should comply with your state laws when you install it. But they know damn well that thousands and thousands of Ring owners are not doing that, and as a result surveilling people who have not given their consent or who don’t know.”

Security, especially video surveillance, is serious business. There are numerous factors to consider from both a technical and privacy perspective.

While security professionals are involved in positive and innovative initiatives that aide law enforcement like ASAP-to-PSAP, why should the residential video surveillance area be left to DIY homeowners?

Perhaps there’s a solution out there that can be provided by security pros that is both more effective for law enforcement as well as more privacy-conscious for end users. Do you have that solution? Let us know in the comments section below.

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