This is a substantial departure from how Ring, the leading video doorbell company, has handled these matters. Now, if a law enforcement agency wants to view footage taken by a Ring video doorbell, it will have to cough up a warrant instead of being able to request the footage willy-nilly.
Those who opposed Ring’s policy argued that it created the potential for violating civil liberties. The fact that police departments were allowed to access the footage without a warrant shows just how slippery the government surveillance slope can get.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter previously to Amazon asking about the practice. The company acknowledged providing videos to law enforcement in response to emergency requests, multiple times in 2022.
The broader implications of this development are quite significant. We have already seen that our federal law enforcement agencies are often willing to skirt the Constitution if it means they can spy on Americans without warrants. It is one of the reasons why so many seek to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) system.
The bottom line is that if law enforcement wants to access such sensitive information, it should have to go through the process in a way that does not allow it to infringe on people’s rights.
Merrionette Park (Illinois) Police Commander Joe Garrett chimed in on the news during a conversation with CBS News, noting that he was “a little disappointed” by Amazon’s decision because it could make it harder for him to do his job.
Garrett is right – Amazon is probably concerned about lawsuits. Indeed, it’s surprising that the company hasn’t already been sued for handing over personal information to law enforcement without a warrant or permission.
This story is another reminder of the precarious balance between security and privacy in the digital era. It also raises an important question: Which other companies are handing over your data to law enforcement without your knowledge or even a warrant?