Police are tapping into residents' Ring doorbells and home security cameras to stream 24/7 live video

  • A handful of police departments across the US are using software that lets them register the locations of people's home security cameras including Amazon Ring doorbells and get residents' permission to stream live video from the cameras.
  • The software is sold by Fusus — a Georgia-based tech firm with no connection to Amazon — that builds dashboards for police departments that combine feeds from public and private security cameras in one place.
  • A pilot program is currently underway in Jackson, Mississippi to persuade residents to let police stream live video from their home security cameras. City officials said it "would save [us] from having to buy a camera for every place across the city."
  • Fusus also has contracts with police departments in Minnesota, Georgia, California, and Illinois, according to its marketing materials.
  • Amazon distanced itself from the practice, telling Business Insider that Ring "is not working with any of the companies" involved and that individual Ring users can choose to share video with police.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A new pilot program in Jackson, Mississippi, will turn participating residents' home security cameras — including Amazon Ring doorbells — into a network of cameras streaming live video that police can access at any time.

The city will ask people to sign waivers allowing police to access live footage from their home security camera in an attempt to fight crime, The Associated Press earlier reported. The pilot is being carried out in partnership with Fusus, a Georgia-based tech firm that sells software that lets police extract live video from private security cameras.

"It would save [us] from having to buy a camera for every place across the city," Jackson mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a statement reported by WLBT, a local network. "If someone says, 'I want my Ring door camera to be used,' we'll be able to use it."

The announcement of the pilot program drew swift backlash from privacy advocates, who have long warned that the proliferation of popular home security cameras like Ring could be used by police to widen their surveillance capacities.

"At least in the past [police] were limited by how many cameras they could buy and install. Now we're seeing an end-run around any meaningful democratic process or oversight over community surveillance," Evan Greer, deputy director of the activist nonprofit Fight for the Future, told Business Insider. "It's a worst-case-scenario for civil liberties."

Amazon has distanced itself from the Jackson pilot program. A Ring spokesperson told Business Insider: "This is not a Ring program and Ring is not working with any of the companies or the city in connection with this program," adding that individual Ring owners can choose to share footage with police as they like.

Jackson isn't the only city where police are using Fusus' software to gain access to people's home security cameras. Fusus also sells its Real-Time Crime Center in the Cloud to police in Rialto, California; Oak Lawn, Illinois; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, according to its website.

In an instructional video uploaded to the Rialto Police Department's website, residents are encouraged to use Fusus' software to register their home security cameras so the police department knows the cameras' location in case they could be used to investigate crimes. After registering, residents are also given the option to grant police permission to stream live video from their home camera.

Fusus did not respond to Business Insider's questions about how many police departments use its software or how many residents have granted permission to stream live video from their home security cameras.

In the past, police have been able to use Ring's Neighbors platform to request footage from Ring owners in a specific area and time frame. But privacy advocates say granting police the ability to stream live footage represents a more serious invasion of privacy.

"Our worst fears have been confirmed," Electronic Frontier Foundation policy analyst Matthew Guariglia said in a statement. "The choices you and your neighbors make as consumers should not be hijacked by police to roll out surveillance technologies. The decision making process must be left to communities."

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