The New York Police Department has joined Ring Neighbors, the neighborhood surveillance network built around Amazon’s Ring security cameras. The partnership, announced yesterday, means the NYPD will view people’s posts on Neighbors and be able to post directly to it, including requests for public help on “active police matters.”
Neighbors is a Nextdoor-like extension of Ring’s security camera business, allowing residents of a neighborhood to discuss crime and safety as well as post footage from their cameras. While many law enforcement departments have joined Neighbors in recent years, this marks its adoption by America’s largest police force. (Police could separately request Ring footage for criminal investigations without the app.) It’s part of an increasingly tight integration between Amazon and police — one that’s raised both concerns about privacy and questions about its crime-solving value.
Around 200 police departments had Ring partnerships in 2019, including some where officers received free cameras and were encouraged to recommend them to other people. (Amazon subsequently ended that program, which was revealed publicly last year.) By 2021, the number had hit 2,000. The NYPD says it “will not monitor the app around the clock,” but it will be able to see crime- and safety-related reports from the app’s users and respond to them.
Amazon has tightened its rules for police using Neighbors over the years, and it no longer allows some practices it previously enabled, like privately requesting footage from individual users. It’s also attempted to mitigate the app’s reputation for fearmongering, encouraging people to post “neighborly moments” showing good deeds. But Amazon’s capacity for widespread monitoring has still alarmed civil liberties advocates — especially because citizen reports can reflect racial biases about “suspicious” residents. The NYPD, meanwhile, remains shadowed by an invasive decade-long surveillance campaign against Muslim residents. The collaboration between the two will begin in the coming week.