A privacy win: Amazon limits police access to your Ring camera

In a bold move championing individual privacy, Amazon Ring has announced a significant policy shift. Starting February 2024, Ring will no longer facilitate police requests for home security footage through its Neighbors app. This decision marks a pivotal change in the balance between security and privacy.

Ring, a household name in home security, has faced criticism for its past practices of sharing security videos with police without user consent. The company’s latest software update, detailed in a recent blog post by Eric Kuhn, head of the Neighbors platform, highlights the removal of the “Request for Assistance” tool. This tool previously allowed law enforcement to request user footage directly via the app.

Credit: Neighbors by Ring

While police and fire departments can still use the Neighbors app to share safety tips and updates, the direct request and receipt of video content is now off the table. According to Ring, this change aligns more closely with their vision of empowering customers and fostering community connections.

Credit: Ring

 

MORE: TOP VIDEO DOORBELLS 

 

Police can get access in these extreme cases

Despite this shift, law enforcement isn’t completely cut off from accessing Ring footage. In extreme cases like life-threatening emergencies — think kidnappings or attempted murder — police can still directly request footage from companies like Ring. These instances, however, are rare and subject to Ring’s own discretion. In fact, Ring has responded to such emergency requests only a handful of times in recent months.

Additionally, the traditional legal pathways remain open. Law enforcement can still obtain a warrant or subpoena to access video footage, subject to judicial oversight and specific time constraints.

Credit: Ring

 

MORE: TOP PICKS TO AMP UP YOUR HOME SECURITY  

 

What you need to know about Ring’s new update and features

For Ring users, this update requires little action. It’s advisable to keep your devices and apps updated to receive the latest firmware changes. Ring is not just taking away; they’re also adding new features like “Ring Moments” for sharing light-hearted videos and a “Best of Ring” video collection, enhancing the community aspect of the platform.

The takeaway here is clear: privacy matters. While security is paramount, it shouldn’t come at the cost of individual privacy. Ring’s decision reflects a growing awareness and respect for this balance after years of our reporting about this somewhat unknown secret.

Did you know that other Amazon devices including Echo and Ring products allow neighbors to connect to your network without your permission unless you opt out?  It’s presumptuous on Amazon’s part to make this an automatic feature and I recommend you turn it off if you want better security. Here’s how.

 

How to Opt-Out of Sidewalk on your Ring Video Doorbell or Ring devices

Sidewalk is a feature from Amazon that allows your Ring devices to share a small portion of your internet bandwidth with your neighbors. If you are not comfortable with this, you can opt out of Sidewalk by following these simple steps.

  • Launch Ring app
  • Tap the 3-line menu in the top left
  • Go to “Control Center” (towards the bottom of the navigation)
  • Click “Amazon Sidewalk”
  • Slide the Sidewalk slider button to the left so it reads “Turned off”

 

MORE: HOW TO DETECT A HACKER SPYING ON YOUR DOORBELL CAMERA  

 

Non-cloud-connected cameras offer more privacy

For those concerned about privacy, consider devices offering local storage options. Unlike cloud-stored footage, local storage gives you more control, making it harder for companies to share your videos without consent — though they’re still subject to legal demands.  Here are some options to consider that offer cloud as well as local storage:

 

Blink Video Doorbell 

Credit: Blink

Another great option for you to consider is the Blink Video Doorbell. It comes with 1080p HD day and infrared night video options, as well as two-way audio for you to communicate with whoever is at your doorstep at any time of the day. You can also get a free 30-day trial of the Blink Subscription Plan which gives you access to saving and sharing clips in the Cloud. Choose to save and share clips in the cloud with a free 30-day trial of the Blink Subscription Plan or locally with the Sync Module 2 and USB drive (each sold separately).

At the time of publishing, this product had over 112,000 global reviews, with 67% giving it 5 stars.

Get Blink Video Doorbell

 

 

eufy Video Doorbell

Credit: eufy

My final pick is the eufy Video Doorbell which not only was on sale for 20% off at the time of publishing but also provides advanced encryption for everything caught on your camera so that no outsiders can hack into your private data. No subscription is required to use this video doorbell, and you will get up to 120 days of video coverage on a single charge. It gives a 1080p-grade view and a 4:3 aspect ratio for a crystal clear view at all hours. Every moment captured is stored locally on the Wi-Fi doorbell chime inside your home via advanced encryption. At the time of publishing, this product had over 8,000 global reviews, with 67% giving it 5 stars.

Get eufy Video Doorbell 

 

 

eufy T8424121 Camera

Credit: eufy

The eufy T8424121 Camera adds surveillance and real-time communication via its 2-way audio system. You can live stream and record whoever is at your front door in full 2K HD, and there are no additional hidden costs to use the functions of the camera. The floodlight camera has 4GB local storage built-in for motion-triggered recordings. In the scenario of 30 video clips per day, 1 min length per recording, the 4GB eMMC can store about 16 days of footage. Its 2,500-lumen super-bright motion-activated floodlights deter intruders and ensure detailed, full-color recordings even at night, and it also comes with a 100dB Smart siren that can scare off intruders. At the time of publishing, this product had over 1,200 global reviews on Amazon with 70% giving it 5 stars.

Get eufy T8424121 Camera 

 

 

 

Blink Floodlight camera

Credit: Blink

The Blink Floodlight camera works alongside Outdoor to deliver a wire-free, HD smart security LED floodlight camera with up to two years of battery life. The 1080p HD live view and two-way audio from its app give you a live look and allow you to speak to visitors at any time. You get 700 lumens of motion-triggered, high-quality LED lights. Plus, you can choose to store video clips and photos in the cloud with an optional Blink Subscription Plan or locally with the included Blink Sync Module 2 and USB flash drive. At the time of publishing, this product had nearly 15,000 global reviews on Amazon, with 69% giving it 5 stars.

Get Blink Floodlight camera 

 

 

MORE: IS YOUR DOORBELL CAMERA VULNERABLE TO JAMMING OR INTERFERENCE?

 

Kurt’s key takeaways

Ring’s policy update is a significant step toward protecting individual privacy. It’s a move that encourages users to stay informed and consider their options in the evolving landscape of home security and privacy rights. Now is a great time to take a fresh look at your video doorbell privacy settings to make sure it feels right. Check the names of those who have access, ensuring cameras are only being shared with those you know and trust.

How do you feel about Ring’s decision to stop facilitating police requests for home security footage? Do you agree or disagree with it? Let us know in the comments below.

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