Mark Burnett, Chairman of MGM Television
Barry Poznick, President of MGM Unscripted Television
RE: Cancellation of Ring Nation
Dear Mark Burnett and Barry Poznick,
Through Ring Nation, MGM’s new show that airs footage from Ring devices, your studio is normalizing and promoting Amazon Ring’s dangerous network of surveillance cameras. Amazon Ring doorbell cameras and their associated app, Neighbors, violate basic privacy rights, fuel surveillance-based policing that disproportionately targets people of color and threatens abortion seekers, and enables vigilantes to surveil their neighbors and racially profile bystanders. Given the aforementioned harms, 40 racial justice, civil rights, and privacy advocacy organizations are calling on MGM to cancel the Ring Nation TV series.
MGM and others affiliated with the show are hiding behind the concept of consent in order to rationalize airing Ring Nation. The individuals appearing on the show consenting to video surveillance in no way protects against the harms stemming from Ring’s surveilling communities at large, especially marginalized communities targeted by police.
The Ring surveillance network used to garner clips for Ring Nation does so at the expense of Black and brown people. Ring has a long history of using racially-coded dog whistles and weaponizing race to promote their products. And the accompanying Neighbors app gamifies the profiling and criminalization of Black and brown individuals. Footage from Ring cameras was used to track and monitor protesters who took to the streets, exercising their First Amendment rights, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. These are not isolated incidents. Racial profiling and racist policing are core components of Ring’s business model, which profits off fear.
With over 2,000+ police partnerships, Ring poses a threat to Black and brown lives and violates fundamental privacy protections. A recent investigation revealed Ring has been sharing “private” user footage with cops—without a warrant or user permission. Ring isn’t just giving police departments access to surveillance data: it provides them with backdoor access to a mass surveillance network that operates independent of the Fourth Amendment and any oversight. In the wake of the reversal of Roe, footage from a Ring camera could be used to prosecute an abortion patient who goes out of state for healthcare—either by filming the clinic, capturing them leaving an Airbnb, or proving that they weren’t home for a few days.
Ring Nation attempts to put a happy face on a dangerous product. Not only will MGM’s Ring Nation further normalize harmful neighborhood surveillance, it will deepen the pockets of a corporation that profits from the criminalization of communities of color and surveilling the whereabouts and actions of millions. Ring Nation is an advertisement for a bleak vision of the future, in which private megacorporations surveil our every move, sell us out to law enforcement, and profit off racism and hatred. Does MGM endorse this future?
If aired, this show jeopardizes the rights and lives of viewers and their families. Ignoring the broader societal impact of Ring and airing Ring Nation would be reckless. We call on you to cancel Ring Nation.
Action Center on Race & the Economy
Black Voices Theater Production
Center for Race and Digital Justice
Detroit Community Technology Project
Dignity and Power NOW
Envision Freedom Fund
Fight for the Future
For Us Not Amazon
FREE! Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Jobs With Justice
Just Futures Law
Main Street Alliance
May First Movement Technology
Muslim Counterpublics Lab
Open Markets Institute
Progressive Technology Project
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
SURJ Northern Virginia
Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
The Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing Project at the Immigrant Defense Project
United We Dream
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
Weequahic Park Association