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Amazon patents “surveillance-as-a-service” as critics express concerns with Ring footage sharing

Categories Biometric R&D  |  Biometrics News  |  Surveillance

Amazon has patented “Surveillance-as-a-Service” technology based on drones with photographic, video, infrared, thermal, night-vision, and audio capabilities, Smart Cities Dive reports.

Homeowners could contract Amazon to perform one-time or regular surveillance of their property, and receive alerts for suspicious activity, according to the patent, which was originally filed in June, 2015. The area designated for surveillance will be geo-fenced so data from the surrounding area is not included.

Meanwhile, critics are rallying against the use of Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras to collect footage for law enforcement, according to The Atlantic.

CNET reported earlier this month that subsidized Ring doorbell cameras are being distributed by several of the 50 police departments Amazon has partnered with over the past two years. CNET has also quoted a New Jersey police captain as saying he sends officers to the doors of people who have not responded to police requests for footage, but an Amazon Ring spokesperson told The Atlantic that the company does not endorse giveaways requiring users to provide footage to law enforcement.

City of Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission Chair Brian Hoffer says attempts to outlaw license plate readers operated by private parties have been unsuccessful, as it is constitutionally protected activity. Efforts should be directed into changing people’s “hearts and minds” on surveillance, rather than regulating private behavior, he says.

“I’m concerned about police departments starting to imagine the public-safety infrastructure and hinging it on the whims of a company like Amazon,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass says.

With facial recognition adoption increasing, and legislation yet to address it in many jurisdictions, a public policy battle may be ahead.

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