On top of turning their doorbell video feeds into a police surveillance network, Amazon’s home security subsidiary, Ring, also once tried to entice people with swag bags to snitch on their neighbours, Motherboard reported Saturday.
The instructions are purportedly all laid out in a 2017 company presentation the publication obtained. Entitled “Digital Neighbourhood Watch,” the slideshow apparently promised promo codes for Ring merch and other unspecified “swag” for those who formed watch groups, reported suspicious activity to the police, and raved about the device on social media. What qualifies as suspicious activity, you ask? According to the presentation, “strange vans and cars,” “people posing as utility workers,” and other dastardly deeds such as strolling down the street or peeping in car windows.
The slideshow goes on to outline monthly milestones for the group such as “Convert 10 new users” or ‘Solve a crime.” Meeting these goals would net the informant tiered Ring perks as if directing police scrutiny was a rewards program and not an act that can threaten people’s lives, particularly people of colour.
These teams would have a “Neighbourhood Manager,” a.k.a. a Ring employee, to help talk them through how to share their Ring footage with local officers. The presentation stated that if one of these groups of amateur sleuths succeeded in helping police solve a crime, each member would receive $US50 ($74) off their next Ring purchase.
When asked about the presentation, a Ring spokesperson told Motherboard the program debuted before Amazon bought the company for a cool $US1 ($1.4) billion last year. According to Motherboard, they also said it didn’t run for long:
“This particular idea was not rolled out widely and was discontinued in 2017. We will continue to invent, iterate, and innovate on behalf of our neighbours while aligning with our three pillars of customer privacy, security, and user control. Some of these ideas become official programs, and many others never make it past the testing phase.”
While Ring did eventually launch a neighbourhood watch app, it doesn’t offer the same incentives this 2017 program promised, so choosing to narc on your neighbour won’t win you any $US50 ($74) off coupons.
Ring has been the subject of mounting privacy concerns in the U.S. after reports from earlier this year revealed the company may have accidentally let its employees snoop on customers among other customer complaints. Earlier this week, the company also stated that it has partnerships with “over 225 law enforcement agencies,” in America in part to help cops figure out how to get their hands on users’ surveillance footage.