WASHINGTON -- Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., is seeking answers from the doorbell-camera firm Ring about its hundreds of video-sharing partnerships with U.S. police agencies, citing "serious privacy and civil liberties concerns" that he said could put people at risk.
In a letter Thursday to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, whose company bought Ring last year, Markey requested details on the company's coordination with law enforcement, its marketing to consumers and the more than 400 police partnerships it has across the country, as first reported last week by The Washington Post. Bezos also owns The Post.
"The integration of Ring's network of cameras with law enforcement offices," Markey wrote, "could easily create a surveillance network that places dangerous burdens on people of color and feeds racial anxieties in local communities."
Bezos, Ring and Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ring says the footage from its line of internet-connected doorbell cameras can help safeguard residential areas and provide key evidence for police, and the company has advertised its camera network as helping support a "new neighborhood watch."
Ring's police partners can use a special service to request homeowners' camera footage from within a specified time and location range. Officers don't receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring says in its emails to homeowners can help "make your neighborhood a safer place."
In his letter, Markey said Ring's courting of police agencies was "troubling" in light of Amazon's other work, including its marketing of its facial-recognition software, Rekognition, to U.S. police agencies. Ring cameras do not use facial-recognition software, but the company has expressed interest in applying the technology to its camera systems as a boost for home security.
Markey also said Ring's requests of homeowners to share their footage used "targeted" and "leading" language to nudge homeowners toward approving police use. He asked whether the company would seek an expert review of its consent prompts to ensure the company "does not use manipulative or coercive language with its users."
Markey also asked the company to provide a detailed timeline of its policies and police
partnerships; a list of all local and federal agencies that have ever had access to Ring footage; details on security safeguards the company has implemented to protect the footage; a standard video-sharing agreement between Ring and police; and a list of any experts Ring has consulted on civil liberties and criminal justice.
Markey's letter could extend scrutiny of the company, which has worked to develop relationships with police agencies across the country, often with little fanfare or community input. Markey previously has called for investigations into how wireless carriers provide Americans' cellphone data to law enforcement.