Eyes on the neighborhood
TECHNOLOGY | Doorbell company rolls back police partnership
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PRIVACY ADVOCATES are celebrating a policy reversal from home security company Ring. The company will no longer allow law enforcement officials to request doorbell camera footage from its customers.
The Amazon-owned company said on Jan. 24 it has ended the “Request for Assistance” tool in its Neighbors app. The feature, introduced in June 2021, allowed police departments and other public safety agencies to ask residents to share video collected by their Ring cameras to help with active investigations.
Authorities don’t need a warrant to use videos freely provided by residents. Later in 2021, Ring made police requests publicly visible on the app and ended officers’ ability to send private email requests for recordings. Police can still post safety alerts and updates.
Privacy watchdogs have criticized Ring and other security companies for partnering with the police to facilitate warrantless surveillance. Civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement that doorbell cameras threaten citizens’ rights and exacerbate racial discrimination.
Police can still access footage with a warrant, and Ring may still voluntarily share video without a customer’s permission if a circumstance is deemed an emergency by law enforcement.
The U.S. National Security Agency is buying Americans’ internet browsing history from commercial data brokers without warrants, according to outgoing NSA Director Paul Nakasone. In a letter released Jan. 25 by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Nakasone confirmed the agency purchases domestic internet communications for national security and cybersecurity investigations.
Nakasone said the NSA does not purchase cell phone location data or location data generated by automotive systems. Instead, the purchases involved NetFlow data, which contains metadata about the flow of internet traffic over a network (and which Wyden claims is sometimes acquired illegally).
In a statement, the senator said such records can reveal sensitive information about American citizens and violate Federal Trade Commission standards. Wyden has called on the Biden administration to end the practice. —L.C.
Getting kids off social media
Florida lawmakers hope to ban children under age 16 from using social media platforms that track user activity or may be addictive. The Florida House voted 106-13 on Jan. 24 to pass HB 1, which could affect Facebook and Instagram. Potentially the strictest such regulation in the country, the measure would bar children from accessing certain platforms even with parental consent. The bill now moves to the Florida Senate for consideration. —L.C.