Privacy Law

Ring camera app won't share footage with law enforcement anymore

  • Print.

A Ring doorbell camera

A Ring doorbell camera. (Image from Shutterstock)

Ring, the video doorbell company, will no longer facilitate law enforcement requests for users’ footage, the company said Wednesday, shutting down a tool that critics have said threatens people’s privacy.

The company had partnered with hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country in recent years, allowing them to request and download footage directly from users through private messages. Ring and law enforcement officials said the effort enhanced public safety. In 2021, following mounting criticism against the feature, the company made law enforcement requests public on its Neighbors app through the Request for Assistance tool.

Now, Ring is curtailing those partnerships. The tool will be inactivated “this week,” the Amazon-owned company said. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“Public safety agencies like fire and police departments can still use the Neighbors app to share helpful safety tips, updates, and community events,” Eric Kuhn, head of Ring’s Neighbors app, said in a company blog post, which adds that agencies will no longer be able to use the app’s Request for Assistance tool.

Posts made by law enforcement agencies may still include requests for footage, but users would need to share that footage directly with departments. Ring did not immediately address questions about what led to the change.

Emma Daniels, a company spokeswoman, told The Post on Thursday that Ring is “focusing our resources on delivering new product and app experiences that better empower our customers to connect with each other, and stay informed by local government and public safety agencies.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said the move is a positive step in maintaining Americans’ privacy but called for further restrictions.

“Ring hopefully will altogether be out of the business of platforming casual and warrantless police requests for footage to its users,” said Matthew Guariglia, a senior policy analyst with the group. “This is a step in the right direction but has come after years of cozy relationships with police and irresponsible handling of data.”

Guariglia added that Ring’s new policy will not stop police from attempting to get footage without warrants through users or through the company. Law enforcement agencies can still request footage directly from the company.

The company’s guidelines state that while it does not disclose customer information unless required by a warrant, on “rare occasions” it will provide information to police “on an emergency basis.” The company provided videos to law enforcement 11 times in 2022 under this exception, the Associated Press reported.

Guariglia said privacy advocates remain skeptical about what would qualify as an emergency in those cases.

“Ring users should also know that when police knock on their door, they have the right to, and should, request that police get a warrant before handing over footage,” Guariglia said.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.