Amazon-owned Ring has been caught up in another privacy scandal, and it once again involves the company's Neighbors platform.
First, let's go back to January. At the time, both The Intercept and The Information claimed Ring was allowing employees to access unencrypted customer videos taken from its lineup of smart doorbells. In response, Ring said that employees were only given access to videos that were made public through its community watch program, Neighbors.
Now, Ring is in the middle of another brouhaha, with Motherboard claiming it has been coaching police on how to coerce Ring users into releasing their footage without a warrant. More specifically, the article claims that Ring's "Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal" enables police to see where Ring devices are located, and it makes it simple for them to request footage from those devices.
In a statement, Ring disputes these claims, telling Pocket-lint that police can only see posts that users share publicly and general location:
"They do not have access to users’ devices, video or other data. Law enforcement can also only submit video requests to users in a given area when investigating an active case using the portal. At the time of the request, law enforcement does not know the exact location of devices or their owners. Ring facilitates these requests, which are only sent to Ring device owners, and user consent is required in order for any footage or information to be shared with law enforcement agencies. Users also have the option to opt-out of all future video requests."
So, owners of Ring devices don't have to supply their footage to law enforcement, but we suspect it's hard to ignore a formal request from the police. Motherboard claimed it saw emails where Ring was teaching police on the best way to obtain footage. Ring even provided templates they can use to request footage from Ring owners. Ring also told police they should post on its Neighbors app.
The article also claimed that Ring claimed posting is "critical in increasing" the rate of people sharing their recordings without a warrant.
For its part, Ring said it "will not release customer information in response to government demands without a valid and binding legal demand".
Updated 7 August: Added Ring statements.