The doorbell-camera company Ring has quietly forged video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them access to homeowners' camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls America's "new neighborhood watch."
The partnerships let police automatically 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. Officers don't receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which are sent via emails that thank them for "making your neighborhood a safer place."
The number of police deals, which has not previously been reported, will likely fuel broader questions about privacy, surveillance and the expanding reach of tech giants and local police. The rapid growth of the program, which launched last spring, surprised some civil-liberties advocates, who believed fewer than 300 agencies had signed on.
Ring is owned by Amazon, which bought the firm last year for more than $800 million, financial filings show. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.
Ring officials and law-enforcement partners portray the vast camera network as an irrepressible shield for American neighborhoods, saying it can assist police investigators and protect homes from criminals, intruders and thieves.