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Amazon defends Ring data sharing practices to US Senator, leaves voice biometrics door open

Amazon defends Ring data sharing practices to US Senator, leaves voice biometrics door open

Amazon has shared video footage from Ring door devices with police 11 times this year through an emergency-request process that does not require consent from the device owner. Revelations in a letter to a U.S. Senator are being used to promote tighter regulation of biometrics.

Partnerships between the Ring unit and law enforcement have increased five-fold since November 2019, Amazon told Sen. Edward Market in a letter responding to his request for details on the relationship between the platform and police.

The company refused Markey’s request to commit to not including voice biometrics in its products, declined to remove the auto-recording audio function from Ring doorbells, and said it will not make end-to-end encryption a default feature for data storage.

The company noted in its response, however, that Ring doorbells are not currently equipped with voice recognition.

Amazon committed to including public health departments, animal services and agencies addressing homelessness, drug addiction and mental health into its Neighbors Public Safety Service, Markey notes. Despite that, only police and fire departments currently use it. There are now 2,161 law enforcement agencies on Ring’s public safety service platform, the company says, along with 455 fire departments.

“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,” says Markey.

“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.”

He called on Congress to pass the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to stop law enforcement from accessing sensitive information about our faces, voices and bodies.”

Amazon defends its practices by referring to an audit by the Policing Project at New York University (NYU) School of Law. That review showed the company had already made more than 100 changes to improve the transparency and privacy protections of its products, policies and practices.

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