Amazon’s home security company Ring is opening up about just how many police departments it’s partnered with across the United States. Today the company published a map showing hundreds of departments with which it’s inked deals.
For months, Ring has refused to provide basic details about its partnerships with American law enforcement agencies, going as far as to withhold the actual number of departments from which it’s secured contracts.
That changed on Wednesday as the Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) prepared to publish its first in-depth story delving into the privacy implications of these controversial relationships.
The Post’s story — which followed months of investigations by Gizmodo, Motherboard, and CNET — included a new total voluntarily offered up by Ring, which acknowledged being actively partnered with 401 police departments across the United States.
As reported by multiple outlets, partnerships come in several different flavours. In some cases, police departments team up with Ring to offer rebates to community members who want to buy Ring products. More recently, police departments have been signing deals to join Ring’s neighbourhood watch app Neighbours, giving them access to a portal they can use to request footage from Ring camera owners in their communities.
According to Ring, the map published today details departments who participate in the portal. Previous reporting identified dozens of departments who have partnered on subsidies.
The new 405 figure is over a hundred more departments than had been identified by tech reporters and independent researchers who were forced to rely solely on public record requests and other data, such as social media announcements, local news stories, and press releases found on police websites.
Ring followed the Post’s story with a blog post announcing that it’s now going to update a map showing everywhere it’s working with police. “Our new Active Law Enforcement Map makes it even easier for users to see if their local law enforcement team is involved with Neighbours,” it said. “We will keep the map updated so users can search either by zip code, address or visually by zooming into a region or city.”
Interestingly, at some point between the Post’s Drew Harwell writing his story and Ring publishing its own blog, Ring acquired an additional four law enforcement partners, bringing the total now to 405.
Much of the recent reporting about Ring has focused less on the perceived risks to Americans’ privacy — which Harwell’s story thoroughly describes — and more on the company’s aggressive efforts to stop the public from peeking behind the curtain.
Ring claims it decided to create a map in response to requests from users who want the ability to see every city in which the company is actively partnered with police. But it seems far more likely that the company is hoping this disclosure will somehow preempt future articles about its own noticeable aversion to being observed.