Dear Editors of CNET, Consumer Reports, Digital Trends, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, and Wirecutter,
Given Amazon’s Ring technology directly threatens Black and brown communities, 20+ racial justice, civil liberties, and privacy rights organizations are calling on you to rescind your recommendation of all Amazon Ring products.
Ring cameras surveil millions of Americans, from children playing in the park to people visiting health clinics to protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. Alongside the massive growth of this private network of cameras, the tech giant is aggressively expanding their police partnerships. With over 2,000 partnerships, Amazon’s doorbell, floodlight, mailbox, and dash cameras record and collect data on our whereabouts, our homes, and our communities. This massive surveillance dragnet poses an existential Orwellian threat to the daily lives of the public at large and to our democracy—but for Black and brown communities Amazon Ring technology could put their lives in immediate danger.
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. Simultaneously, they have sold their racist Rekognition facial identification technology to police departments. Amazon marketed Rekognition to police with the full awareness of two damning facts: first, that police misuse facial recognition, and second, that Rekognition disproportionately misidentifies Black and brown people, transgender people, and women.
On top of it all, Amazon’s Neighbors app is designed to gamify profiling Black and brown people via racist neighborhood surveillance. 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.
Amazon Ring is also being used to surveil, intimidate, and punish Black Lives Matter protesters. Recently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released records obtained from Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) showing detectives requesting footage of Black Lives Matter protests from Ring users. This video was used by detectives to identify and track protesters who took to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. LAPD did not act alone. Liaisons working for Amazon Ring helped the department send bulk footage requests to regions throughout the city.
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.
It is surprising that you continue to recommend people buy Ring products. These devices threaten Black lives–that renders them ineligible for best in their category endorsements.
Some of the consumers using your reviews to make purchasing decisions live in Black and brown communities. They have Black and brown loved ones, undocumented family members, and activists friends. Through your recommendation, they are unknowingly tracking the people they love for police agencies. A purchase incorrectly believed to keep them and their loved ones safe actually endangers their lives. In assessing a product’s safety, it’s incumbent upon you to evaluate these harms and the negative impacts these products have on society along with the other criteria you take into consideration.
Your outlets all declared Black Lives Matter. You have the power now to act in accordance with that belief. Rescind your recommendation of Amazon Ring cameras and update all relevant guides.
Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE)
Color of Change
Demand Progress Education Fund
Fight for the Future
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Jobs With Justice
Open MIC (Open Media & Information Companies Initiative)
Partnership for Working Families
S.T.O.P. - The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project