Amazon has announced the discontinuation of its controversial Request for Assistance (RFA) tool, which enabled police and fire departments to request doorbell videos through Ring’s Neighbors app.
Eric Kuhn, head of the Neighbors app, clarified that public safety agencies can still utilize the app for sharing safety tips and community updates, but the RFA tool will no longer be available for video requests.
The RFA tool has been a source of concern for privacy advocates, prompting Amazon to make police requests public in its 2021 transparency report.
With a 65% increase in legal requests compared to the previous year, the tool drew attention to the potential invasion of user privacy.
Public officials, including Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, have raised alarms about Ring’s surveillance capabilities.
Markey highlighted the collection of video footage from millions of households and expressed unease about Ring’s pursuit of facial-recognition technology, raising concerns about biases and misidentifications, particularly among people of color.
Amazon’s decision to end the RFA tool marks a notable shift in policy and is expected to be applauded by privacy advocates.
The move underscores the ongoing debate surrounding the balance between public safety measures and individual privacy rights.
Ring, in its law enforcement guidelines, emphasizes its commitment to responding to urgent requests in cases of imminent danger while adhering to federal law standards.
Ring was founded in 2013 by Jamie Siminoff, whose notable appearance on Shark Tank secured the company $700,000 in funding.
In 2018, Ring was acquired by Amazon for over $800 million and has become a leader in the home security arena.