The decade's most triggering comedy
Ring — which Amazon acquired in 2018 for $1 billion — offers products that use outdoor cameras for convenience and home security purposes. In response to a June 14 letter from Markey inquiring about the products’ privacy features, Amazon revealed on July 1 that it had provided law enforcement with videos from user devices in emergency situations 11 times since the beginning of the year after making a “good-faith determination that there was an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury” to someone needing information on short notice.
“Ring reserves the right to respond immediately to urgent law enforcement requests for information in cases involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person,” wrote Brian Huseman, vice president of public policy for Amazon. “Based on the information provided in the emergency request form and the circumstances described by the officer, Ring makes a good-faith determination whether the request meets the well-known standard, grounded in federal law, that there is imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requiring disclosure of information without delay.”
Markey argued in a Wednesday press release that the revelation justifies the passage of his Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act — legislation that would bar state and federal entities from accessing Americans’ biometric data.
“As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,” Markey said in a press release. “We cannot accept this as inevitable in our country. Increasing law enforcement reliance on private surveillance creates a crisis of accountability, and I am particularly concerned that biometric surveillance could become central to the growing web of surveillance systems that Amazon and other powerful tech companies are responsible for.”
Indeed, Ring has faced scrutiny for alleged lax enforcement of its privacy standards. The company has provided its research and development team, which is based in Ukraine, with unencrypted customer video files, according to a 2019 report from The Intercept. Ring sold more than 1.4 million video doorbells in 2020.
Markey noted that Ring’s letter did not provide specific details on the physical distance from which the doorbells can record audio. The company now has 2,161 law enforcement agencies and 455 fire departments enrolled in its Neighbors Public Safety Service — a fivefold increase since the end of 2019.
Lawmakers are also concerned over privacy breaches at TikTok — a social media platform owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance. BuzzFeed News recently obtained audio showing that Chinese employees of ByteDance have “repeatedly accessed nonpublic data” from American users.
Referring to the report, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr called on Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook to nix the app from its platforms.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” Carr wrote. “But it is also clear that TikTok’s pattern of conduct … puts it out of compliance with the policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on your app stores.”