Ring denies considering adding object, license plate and facial recognition to home security system
Ring has responded to a report on a confidential survey sent to beta testers and shared with Ars Technica, denying it indicates that the company is looking into adding biometrics and other technologies to its home security service. The report says the Amazon subsidiary asked customers about their interest in surveillance capabilities such as object, facial, and license plate recognition, physical and remote camera management, and visual and audible alarms for “would-be criminals.”
“These features are not available on Ring devices, but are available on similar products from other device makers,” a Ring spokesperson told Biometric Update. “Like many companies, we regularly engage with our customers to better understand the types of products and features they might find useful. Privacy is foundational to us, and any products and features we develop include strong privacy protections and provide customers with privacy controls.”
Ring is already working with nearly 1,200 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and is not at the moment equipped with biometric recognition or license plate detection. If these features make it in the platform, they could raise privacy concerns. However, the company is for now just testing the waters and not necessarily looking to implement new tech, nor Amazon’s Rekognition platform. Ars Technica reports that in a letter to Congress Ring wrote earlier this year that it might consider it in the future.
“We do frequently innovate based on customer demand,” the letter reads. “If our customers want these features in Ring security cameras, we will release these features only with thoughtful design including privacy, security, and user control, and we will clearly communicate with our customers as we offer new features,” Amazon added.
Last September, Ring Ukraine was developing biometric facial recognition technology, although the Amazon-owned Ring does not currently use it. The news came after in June Amazon patented “Surveillance-as-a-Service” technology based on drones with photographic, video, infrared, thermal, night-vision, and audio capabilities, as critics expressed concern over with Ring footage sharing.
No official comments were made about adding object recognition or license plate scanning in the letter to Congress. Amazon claims in the letter that employees do not have access to “any previously tagged information in video feeds that specifically identify a person or vehicle.”
If it does roll out automatic licenses plate readers in home devices, Amazon would have a competitor in Rekor Systems.
The video content captured by the cameras is fully available for Ring to access. Amazon committed to informing the public about all law enforcement agreements by August. Ars Technica found 1,187 active partnerships with police departments and six fire departments in the U.S.
The company’s relations with law enforcement have been criticized by civil rights groups and U.S. lawmakers for their lack of transparency.
This post was updated on April 24, 2020 at 1:42pm Eastern with a statement from Ring.