Ring, the Amazon-owned home security and video doorbell company, will update its app to let customers opt out of receiving requests for videos on behalf of police investigating neighborhood crimes.
The move follows media reports and lawmaker inquiries into the use of Ring customer videos by law enforcement. The issue reflects broader concerns about civil liberties and police surveillance. Customers had previously been able to ignore requests for videos without repercussion, according to the company. The update will let them avoid receiving the requests in the first place.
Ring announced the news Monday morning at CES 2020, the annual technology show in Las Vegas. The company also showed new products: its first-ever LED smart bulbs, new solar-powered lighting devices, and a new Ring device for controlling security gates at the perimeter of a home or property.
It’s part of a broader effort by Ring to extend its reach, giving Amazon and its Alexa virtual assistant a larger presence in home security, competing against traditional home security vendors in addition to other tech rivals such as Google’s Nest, Abode, SkyBell and others.
Ring, acquired by Amazon for more than $1 billion in 2018, has also been in the spotlight for a series of incidents in which hackers were able to access home cameras by taking advantage of customers’ insecure passwords. Ring responded to those incidents by encouraging customers to strengthen their passwords and take advantage of its option for two-factor authentication.
The company said it’s working to give customers more control and visibility of their security and privacy settings. As part of that effort, Ring said today that it will be shifting to two-factor authentication by default on new accounts and all device setups, including devices on existing accounts.
Ring has established partnerships with more than 400 U.S. police departments since launching its law enforcement program in 2018. The company emails requests to customers on behalf of police. Ring says it doesn’t share information about customers unless they choose to share videos. The company has cited precautions against indiscriminate surveillance, such as requiring police to make the inquiries in conjunction with an active and specific investigation with a case number.
Previously, customers could opt out in response to one of these emails. The company says they could also opt out proactively via an online link as of late November, but the addition of the opt-out to the Ring app makes the option more accessible.
The ability to opt out of video requests will be added to the app in a new security and privacy section of the Ring app, called “Control Center,” to debut later this month. The company says Control Center will also let customers manage their devices and third-party services. Future updates will add more privacy and security controls, and provides insights into data security and privacy.
Ring’s new products will integrate with its app and existing video and security devices. Ring Access Controller Pro, a device for controller perimeter gates and doors, will work in conjunction with the “Key for Amazon” delivery service to provide access to authorized delivery drivers. It sells for $299 and was released today.
The new Ring Smart LED Lightbulbs are for interior and exterior lights, with features including the ability to turn on when motion is detected by another Ring device. They’re set to debut in April. Pricing wasn’t announced this morning. Ring also announced a Solar Floodlight, Steplight and Pathlight, motion-activated exterior lights that are also scheduled to debut in January.
Amazon has been pushing the boundaries of privacy as part of a wide-ranging move into smart-home devices and services.
Facing a public backlash over human review of voice recordings from Alexa devices last year, Amazon gave users increased privacy controls and sought to offer assurances about how those recordings were used. The tech giant considered a more extreme measure that would have opted users out of the practice by default, but decided against it. Dave Limp, Amazon’s devices and services chief, defended the decision in an interview at the GeekWire Summit, saying that human review is “critically important to making Alexa better.”
Updated at 9:55 a.m. with additional information from Ring.
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