example frames from videos scraped from the Neighbors app. Notice how many videos show entire streets, other houses, and other space one might consider public, or in private
(that we know of)
a map I made with this data was used in a Gizmodo article (click here)
Now, by themselves, if each video feed was private to its owner, this phenomenon might not be so concerning. It would amount to millions of people all interested in the latest ioT technology, or, as commerce increasingly shifts to the doorstep, interested in keeping track of their purchases. But Ring’s entire business model rests on the idea that all of these cameras are connected together, for amazon to examine and analyze, and for law enforcement agencies to use as an interface to neighborhoods around the country.
At it's core as a product, Ring is a video doorbell. It records video when motion is detected or when someone rings it, and notifies the owner on their smartphone. But Ring as a company is much more than just a creator of IoT devices. Purchased by Amazon for $1B in 2017, Ring and its founders had already declared that they were “going to war with anyone that wants to harm a neighborhood”. Ring operates as a commercial IoT company, but their core mission, baldly laid out by its founders, is to create a private bubble around communities that operates as an interface between residents and police. It’s main differentiator from other competitors isn’t it’s ease of use, or anything about the products themselves. It’s that the product isn’t the camera devices at all -- it’s the network it’s been slowly building, both inside our neighborhoods, and with law enforcement around the country.
each dot above is a camera that has posted at least once to the neighbors app between 2017 and spring 2020.
Back in 2019, I started scraping all the posts on Ring's Neighbors app. Each post includes the approximate location of the user (or doorbell camera), text and media (video or images), and other metadata. I quickly started mapping their locations, finding that these cameras, which are increasingly part of policing infrastructure, blanket cities all over the U.S.
Amazon Ring is the fastest-growing private surveillance network on the planet