Amazon bought Ring, a company that sells home surveillance devices, like doorbell cameras. As it grew a massive network of cameras in neighborhoods across the United States, Amazon started to form dangerous police partnerships.
In just a few years, Amazon integrated Ring into nearly 1,400 police departments across the country. As a part of the partnership, police promote Ring products and engage with Amazon’s neighborhood watch app, Neighbors. In exchange, Amazon provides police departments with an easy way to request and store footage from thousands of residents at one time––allowing for massive warrantless surveillance.
As we divest from policing, we must end these corporate-police partnerships and stop the expansion of surveillance.
Amazon + Police partnerships are dangerous. These partnerships provide a workaround for cops to access a privately-run surveillance network without having to abide by any of the laws or public scrutiny they would have if it was government run. This is how it all works:
Amazon + Police surveillance partnerships function with no oversight or accountability. With Amazon’s help, cops have essentially installed surveillance cameras on all of our front doors, without public oversight, despite endangering our rights and liberties. With the end-run Amazon provides, the police get access to user footage en masse without a warrant, probable cause, or judicial review. By extending its private surveillance empire to the police, Amazon poses a direct threat to our rights, our democracy, and the lives of Black and brown people.
After the murder of George Floyd millions of protesters took to the streets to oppose police violence and systematic racism. Cops used heavily invasive surveillance tools to identify, track, and even arrest activists exercising their First Amendment rights.
Their partnership with Amazon gave them unprecedented access to request footage en masse without probable cause. In doing so, Amazon helps police subvert the Fourth Amendment by giving them backdoor access to mass surveillance networks without a warrant.
The police could use footage and facial recognition software from Amazon’s dragnet to track down protesters they were targeting, as well as share it with other agencies, like the DEA, that were tasked with suppressing protests and intimidating protestors. This kind of power without accountability threatens our basic civil rights
Amazon creates dangerous technology marketed to make policing faster, cheaper, and more efficient in social control. This automated surveillance technology enables mass scale policing that can monitor everyone everywhere. Amazon’s surveillance empire will only solidify the police state.
Pervasive video surveillance is particularly dangerous when integrated with facial recognition, which can be used to identify and track people, their whereabouts, and their social interactions.
For years, Amazon marketed its dangerous facial recognition software, Rekognition, to its police partners. Amazon knew police were using this technology incorrectly and without public oversight, and they knew that Rekognition disproportionately misidentifies Black and brown people, transgender people, and women—but, they refused to stop.
After intense pressure on Amazon and nationwide protests against police violence, Amazon announced a one year moratorium on police using Rekognition. However, Amazon can continue research and development on Rekognition and continue to grow partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies.
Amazon Neighbors, a neighborhood watch app, lets people upload footage from their Ring or other camera for anyone to see. All the posts on Neighbors are immediately categorized as ‘crime’ with the majority of the posts being tagged as suspicious, strange, or unknown people.
In encouraging people to self-police their neighborhoods based on identifying who belongs there or not, Neighbors facilitates the racial profiling and criminalizing of Black and brown people––which is reflected in posts on the app.
Neighbors App is set up to foster wide-spread paranoia and fear. Users are empowered by the app to surveil themselves and their neighbors. This massive network of organized self-surveillance threatens core democratic values and further entrenches the Amazon-police surveillance state.
While activists call for the defunding of police forces, Amazon is doing everything they can to solidify themselves as an extension of law enforcement. They throw special high-dollar parties for the police with special guests like Shaq. They make large donations to police foundations across the country and they’re constantly researching new ways for their technology to be at the center of policing.
Amazon has experimented with a feature for 911 calls to trigger Ring doorbell cameras to wake up and live stream for police use. There are reports of Amazon forming a partnership with Axon, a company that produces TASER shock devices and body cameras for police.