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Amazon Ring's police partnerships 'troubled' security industry group

The Amazon subsidiary has partnered with police forces around the US.

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An industry group for video surveillance is calling out Ring.

Chris Monroe/CNET

An industry group focused on surveillance says Ring's hundreds of police partnerships are troubling because they suffer from a lack of transparency. The Monitoring Association, a trade group made up of security and alarm companies, said it was concerned that police are helping to promote Ring products without informing consumers. Ring is a member of the association.

Police across the US have found Ring video doorbells to be a useful tool for getting footage and creating impromptu surveillance networks in residential communities. Ring has partnered with at least 231 police departments in the US, according to a map created by Shreyas Gandlur. Despite multiple requests, the company hasn't disclosed how many police departments it's partnered with in total. 

Unlike the situation with other video doorbells and surveillance products, police often end up promoting Ring sales through partnerships with the company. Police often get free cameras to give away to residents and will encourage people to buy Ring's products, including the accompanying Neighbors app

The close relationship between Ring and hundreds of police agencies has become a concern for The Monitoring Association, which called for more transparency about the arrangements.

"We are troubled by recent reports of agreements that are said to drive product-specific promotion, without alerting consumers about these marketing relationships," TMA President Ivan Spector said in a statement published Wednesday. "This lack of transparency goes against our standards as an industry, diminishes public trust and takes advantage of these public servants." Spector is also president of Sentinel Alarm. 

Ring says its products help make neighborhoods safer and that it doesn't require police to promote Ring devices. It also said it notifies users about partnerships through alerts in the Neighbors app

"When new law enforcement agencies come on board, we inform users through in-app alerts via a regional announcement," a Ring spokesperson said. "In addition, Ring does not support programs that require users to provide law enforcement with access to their cameras or footage as a condition for receiving a Ring device."

The industry group's concerns echo complaints by privacy advocates. Fight for the Future, a tech-focused nonprofit, launched a campaign in July calling for cities to ban police partnerships with Ring.  

"When an industry association that represents security and surveillance camera companies thinks that your practices are too invasive and lack transparency, that really says something," Fight for the Future's deputy director, Evan Greer, said in a statement. "This should be setting off alarm bells for local elected officials in the hundreds of cities that already have these partnerships."

Originally published Aug. 8, 10:27 a.m. PT.
Update, 2:08 p.m.: Adds Ring comment.