MCLEAN, Va. — The Monitoring Association (TMA) has issued a statement in response to news reports about the hundreds of police departments across the United States that are partnering with Amazon’s Ring home surveillance brand, which it acquired last year.
According to news reports, more than 225 law enforcement agencies have contracted with the manufacturer as of April 2019. The agreement offers incentives for law enforcement agencies to sell and distribute the video doorbell device to its neighborhood residents, and in tandem to encourage participation in the manufacturer’s app.
The reports note video access and download is only permitted with homeowner consent. The app is marketed as a community safety-enhancing service.
Much of the controversy centers on police requesting Ring camera footage from residents, and forming a surveillance network with unprecedented reach without a formal warrant, which has raised privacy concerns.
Some police departments aren’t getting the amount of footage they want from local residents’ Ring doorbell cameras, and they’ve been asking the company for advice on how to get more, according to a Vice Motherboard report.
Gizmodo recently reported that Ring is accessing real-time 911 dispatch data, which it then uses to “curate” crime news for its Neighbors app. Ring confirmed to Gizmodo that, in many jurisdictions, it has access to computer-aided dispatch (CAD) data from the emergency response systems their law enforcement partners use. It uses an API call to pull in the address or GPS coordinates of a call, the incident time, and a description of the incident.
In its response, TMA states it has moved to raise awareness regarding these marketing and distribution practices. The statement, issued Wednesday, reads:
“Our mission at The Monitoring Association is to promote and advance professional monitoring to our consumers and first responders through education, advocacy, and the creation of standards that take all perspectives into account. We value our partnerships with law enforcement and first responder entities, and our members rely on them to help deliver on our mission,” says Ivan Spector, president of TMA. “We are troubled by recent reports of agreements that are said to drive product-specific promotion, without alerting consumers about these marketing relationships. 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.”
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