Privacy nightmare? Police ask residents in US city to link their smart doorbells to surveillance hub to reduce local crime
A privacy storm is brewing in the United States after it revealed that police in Jackson, Mississippi, have requested access to resident’s smart doorbells.
According to the privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the police in that US city are conducting a 45-day pilot program to live stream the Amazon Ring cameras of participating residents.
Essentially, the police in Mississippi’s capital city have asked residents to connect their smart doorbells to a real-time surveillance hub, in an effort to fight crime.
According to the Associated Press, the police in Jackson have teamed up with two technology firms (PILEUM and Fusus) to provide a platform for the police department to access private surveillance via Ring cameras.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said if home and business owners allow, they could give the city permission to access those cameras through the platform, and the city could use the data collected to track criminal activity.
Lumumba said the city would only be able to access the devices when crimes occur in those areas.
“Ultimately, what will happen is residents and businesses will be able to sign a waiver, if they want their camera to be accessed from the Real Time Crime Center,” Mayor Lumumba said. “It would save (us) from having to buy a camera for every place across the city.”
The city council reportedly signed off on entering the pilot program at its Tuesday meeting.
Under the program, Lumumba said, once a crime is reported, crime centre officials will be able to access cameras in the area to determine escape routes, look for getaway vehicles and the like.
“We’ll be able to get a location, draw a circle around it and pull up every camera within a certain radius to see if someone runs out of a building,” he said. “We can follow and trace them.”
The mayor said it’s too early to determine whether the city would continue the contract after the trial.
But EFF said its “worst fears have been confirmed,” and said it was also concerned with Ring’s 1,000+ partnerships with local police departments, “which facilitate bulk footage requests directly from users without oversight or having to acquire a warrant.”
That said, Amazon is not taking part in this trial.
“This is not a Ring programme and Ring is not working with any of the companies or the city in connection with this programme,” it told the BBC.
In June this year Amazon implement a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software (Rekognition), amid concerns over its use following the Black Lives Matter protests.