At Least 2 OC Cities Partnered with Doorbell-Camera Firm Ring

Say ‘Cheese’! Photo courtesy Ring

On Aug. 28, The Washington Post published a detailed article showing that more than 400 law enforcement agencies have so far partnered with Ring, the doorbell-camera company owned by Amazon.

“The partnerships let police request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said,” the Post reported. “Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place.”

According to the Post, Ring users can download a companion app onto their mobile phones, then use it to view their doorbell camera’s live feed. They can also share the imagery to Neighbors, a public social network set up by Ring. This “allows people to report local crimes, discuss suspicious events and share videos from their Ring cameras, cellphones and other devices,” stated the Post article.

The Post listed just one Orange County city–Westminster–as having partnered with Ring. But in fact, there are at least two cities (that we know of) with partnerships with Ring. Another is Aliso Viejo, through the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (it has no police department of its own).

In February of this year, the City of Aliso Viejo held an event (shown here) with Ring to offer eligible homeowners $100 discounts on Ring security devices:

Image courtesy Jan Martin

Then in July, the city announced that it was joining Ring’s Neighbors app.

“The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Aliso Viejo Police Services is joining the free Neighbors app by Ring to provide the Aliso Viejo community with real-time, local crime and safety information,” states this July 16, 2019 City of Aliso Viejo announcement. “With millions of users, the Neighbors network has been instrumental in catching package thieves, stopping burglaries, and keeping neighborhoods safe.”

That whole Aliso Viejo statement must have come straight from the Neighbors app marketing people because the entire “catching package thieves” line appears word-for-word in similar announcements from the cities of Cape Coral, Florida, Glendale, Arizona and Elgin, Illinois, among many others. In any case,  the July 16 announcement stated that Aliso Viejo is the first Orange County city to join the partnership between the OC Sheriff’s Department and Ring.

“The opportunity for more interaction between residents and law enforcement to keep our community safe is always welcomed,” said Lt. Chad Kajfasz, Chief of Police Services for the city of Aliso Viejo. “We have very engaged citizens who take their personal safety seriously, and this partnership will enhance and continue that trend.”

For its part, the Westminster Police Department got a nice write-up from Behind the Badge back in March on its partnership with Ring.

“It’ll definitely be a helpful tool,” Commander Darin Upstill told Behind the Badge. Ring Senior Account Manager Andrea Han added, “The more civilians that are on it, the more effective and powerful” it will be.

Through Ring and the police departments that partner with it insist that no footage taken by the doorbell camera is swept up without a homeowner’s consent, there’s still tremendous potential for damage. In December 2018, for instance, the ACLU denounced a patent application to add facial recognition software to Ring.

“The ACLU and other civil rights groups have repeatedly warned that face surveillance poses an unprecedented threat to civil liberties and civil rights that must be stopped before it becomes widespread,” ACLU attorney Jacob Snow wrote. “The history of discriminatory government surveillance makes clear that face surveillance will disproportionately harm people already targeted by the government and subjected to racial profiling and abuse — immigrants, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated.”

Of course, a Ring spokesperson told the Post that it hasn’t added facial recognition tech to Ring because the patent was just “exploring future possibilities,” which is pretty much the opposite of reassuring.

 

 

 

Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.

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