SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Several law enforcement agencies around San Diego County are teaming up with the popular home surveillance video company Ring, and while the agencies argue that the partnership helps solve and deter crimes, privacy advocates say they have significant concerns about the increasingly cozy relationships between surveillance video companies and law enforcement.
As part of the partnership, Ring offers its users to voluntarily opt in to a program which gives law enforcement access to view and use any video the customer posts to Ring's Neighbors App.
A spokesperson for Ring, which is owned by online retail giant Amazon, told 10News that the program is meant to open lines of communication between its users and law enforcement.
Thus far, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, Carlsbad Police Department, La Mesa Police Department, and Oceanside Police Department have partnered with Ring. A fifth agency, the Chula Vista Police Department, is about to being the training process and is finalizing its Ring partnership.
"Surveillance technology is very important for law enforcement," said University of San Diego Associate Professor Cid Martinez in an interview with 10News. "That's how they solve a lot of problems. It really has the potential to reduce the amount of time needed to solve a crime."
Currently, when investigating a crime, officers need to canvas the neighborhood, often going door to door asking residents if they have a surveillance camera and whether they can have permission to see it.
The Ring program allows investigators to know where all the participating cameras are in the neighorhood and allows them to see if any video has been publicly posted on the Neighbors App.
However, because no warrant is required to view or use that video, Martinez said users may be signing away important privacy protections.
"People don't realize that their Fourth Amendment right -- they're sort of waiving it by giving police access to this," Martinez said.
He also points out that there is little to no municipal oversight of the partnerships between Ring and law enforcement. Privacy advocates say there is no long-term guarantee that Ring will not change the terms of agreement to allow law enforcement unfettered access to user's video and information.
In an email to 10News, Ring's spokesperson said they "... have taken care to design these partnerships in a way that keeps users in control. Users decide what footage is shared to the Neighbors app, and whether or not they want to share any footage or information with local law enforcement."