20+ civil rights groups demand CNET, Consumer Reports, and other review sites stop recommending Amazon’s racist Ring cameras

Posted March 24, 2021, 9:56 AM

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IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 24th
CONTACT: Evan Greer, press@fightforthefuture.org, 978-852-6457

Today, more than twenty racial justice, worker advocacy, privacy, and civil rights organizations released a joint letter calling on the editors of CNET, Consumer Reports, Digital Trends, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, and Wirecutter to rescind their recommendations of Amazon Ring cameras given the threats Ring technology poses to Black and brown communities. 

See the letter here: https://www.fightforthefuture.org/news/2021-03-24-joint-letter-from-20-racial-justice-and-civil/

"Putting Black lives in danger is part of Amazon Ring’s business model. The tech giant weaponizes racist, fear-mongering culture by using racially-coded language and dog whistles to promote Ring products and partnerships," the letter’s signatories write. "Amazon’s private surveillance network fuels the criminalization of Black and brown people by amplifying existing racism in our communities and policing––further subjecting communities of color to repressive police violence and feeding a system of mass incarceration."

The letter goes on to discuss Amazon Ring representatives helping Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives obtain footage of Black Lives Matters protesters.

"It’s not surprising Amazon helped police use their surveillance dragnet to track down the very protesters fighting to dismantle the racist, repressive, militarized law enforcement system Amazon profits from. Roughly half of the police departments partnered with Amazon "are responsible for over a third of fatal police encounters nationwide"—a shocking statistic given that only around 7% of our nation’s police departments had a Ring partnership at the time. In one specific instance, a woman shared footage of an unidentified man on her porch on Amazon Ring’s Neighbors app, which is patrolled by police. The man was later shot by sheriff’s deputies."  

CNET, Consumer Reports, Digital Trends, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, and Wirecutter all posted statements declaring solidarity with Black Lives Matter during protests last summer. However, they have failed to back up their statements with action as they continue to recommend racist Ring products. By awarding Amazon Ring cameras "best in their category” or only enacting temporary suspensions, these outlets are complicit in the violence police wage against Black and brown communities. Despite the outlet’s claims that reviews are neutral, there is no neutrality when it comes to racism.

The signing organizations include: Fight for the Future, Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), Athena Coalition, Backbone Campaign, Color of Change, Demand Progress Education Fund, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Jobs With Justice, Kairos, LAANE, Media Alliance, MediaJustice, Mijente, MPower Change, Oakland Privacy, Open MIC (Open Media & Information Companies Initiative), Partnership for Working Families, Presente.org, Public Citizen, S.T.O.P. - The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Secure Justice, and Threshold.

Leaders from the organizations participating in the campaign issued the following statements, and are available for comment upon request:

The following can be attributed to Myaisha Hayes, Campaign Strategies Director at MediaJustice, (pronouns: she/her): "The only recommendation Tech Review Editors should be making to consumers is to not buy Amazon Ring. These outlets can’t seriously declare that “Black Lives Matter” while advertising surveillance products that harm us. Those of us familiar with the history of Black activism understand that our right to organize and protest has always been under constant attack. Just a few years ago, the FBI labeled Black activists as “Black Identity Extremists” and warned all local law enforcement agencies that Black protesters posed a significant threat to our public safety. This shameful history and practice of undermining Black led Movements is great business for corporations like Amazon that provide the state with racist surveillance tools to track down and cage our loved ones.  As things stand now, millions of households have been deputized by Amazon Ring to expand and digitize the state’s racist policing—and tech review editors are perpetuating this oppression."

The following can be attributed to Jessica Quiason, Deputy Research Director at Action Center on Race and The Economy (ACRE), (pronouns: she/her): "Ring is just one component in an endless arsenal of privately-owned, profit-driven tech that expands on state systems of surveillance and policing of Black and Brown people. These cameras invite the police to have their eyes and ears on our very doorsteps while also creating a profit for Amazon which is more and more invested in expanding the powers and reach of the State. We cannot surveil and police our way to safety. Communities keep communities safe, through public investments and democratic decision-making where our voices and expertise are centered, not law enforcement and corporate executives."

The following can be attributed to Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, (pronouns: she/her): "Any tech review site that recommends Amazon Ring is complicit in exacerbating the racist police violence and surveillance that’s getting people killed in Black and brown communities. Full stop. Recommending surveillance devices that measurably increase racial profiling is unconscionable. Product review sites do not recommend or review stalkerware used by abusers because this technology is inherently harmful and recommending it would be immoral. Amazon Ring is no different. If sites like Consumer Reports, CNET, and Wirecutter don’t rescind their recommendation of Ring, they’re saying they’re okay promoting racism and shilling for a product that’s incompatible with civil liberties and democracy."

The following can be attributed to Color Of Change Vice President Arisha Hatch: "Surveillance technologies rely on algorithms with racial biases and privacy vulnerabilities baked into their software, posing a grave threat to Black people’s safety and wellbeing. Since 2018, Color Of Change and our millions of members have demanded that Amazon address the concerns of civil rights advocates and the larger public about the company’s attempts to peddle products, such as Ring, that enable state-sponsored discrimination and police violence against Black and brown communities.

Despite Amazon leadership’s knowledge of the dangerous consequences of their surveillance products, they continuously choose to prioritize profit over our lives by marketing these products as ‘security’ tools and building on racist fears to sell them. Amazon was quick to publicly support Black Lives Matter amid the racial justice protests last summer, but those words ring hollow in the face of their complicity in fueling discriminatory policing tools and practices.    

Given the media’s role in holding corporations accountable for unethical practices as well as journalists’ position as trusted gatekeepers of factual information, we call on CNET, Consumer Reports, Digital Trends, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, and Wirecutter to immediately halt the promotion of Amazon’s Ring and similar facial recognition products in your respective outlets. Failure to do so will only further enable corporate giants like Amazon to abuse their power to churn profits at the expense of Black lives."

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