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December 8, 2020 – Today, a coalition of 15+ consumer, privacy, and civil rights organizations launched a new campaign, RescindRing.com. Led by Fight for the Future, Rescind Ring calls on tech reviews to rescind or suspend their recommendation of Amazon Ring doorbell cameras.
The groups–including Fight for the Future, Action Center on Race and The Economy (ACRE), Athena Coalition, Constitutional Alliance, Demand Progress, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Kairos Action, Media Alliance, MediaJustice, MPower Change, New York Communities For Change, Oakland Privacy, Open Media and Information Companies Initiative (Open MIC), Presente, Secure Justice, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), and United Church of Christ, OC Inc.–argue product reviewers need to consider the overall impact of a product on society at large in addition to the value to consumers in their assessment. Amazon Ring cameras threaten both society and consumers.
Their poor security leaves consumers vulnerable to hacks and leaks as seen in the past year. Their police partnerships challenge fundamental basic liberties, violate sacred privacy rights, and along with Neighbors App–foster racial profiling and increased criminalization of Black and brown people. This racist targeting is especially worrisome when coupled with the fact that roughly half of the police departments partnered with Amazon “are responsible for over a third of fatal police encounters nationwide.”
And recently some Ring doorbell cameras caught fire, prompting Amazon to recall over 350,000 doorbell cameras. This is the latest example of the tech giant moving too quickly, and being reckless with security and safety, in order to flood our communities with cameras.
The detrimental result of Ring devices and partnerships on families, communities, and democracy renders them too unsafe for recommendation.
“Tech blogs can’t say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and then give five star ratings to products that exacerbate racism. Amazon Ring cameras are dangerous, not just for the people who buy them, but for their neighbors, their communities, and society as a whole,” said Evan Greer (she/her) deputy director of Fight for the Future, “Amazon’s monopoly power and aggressive pursuit of surveillance partnerships with police set them apart from their competitors. Ignoring the broader societal impact of a product does not make your review ‘neutral,’ it makes it reckless and incomplete. Product review sites would not recommend, for example, stalkerware apps used by abusers to track their spouses. They shouldn’t recommend harmful products like Ring, either.”
Ken Mickles, Chief Technical Officer at Fight for the Future, added “Beyond the obvious privacy issues, Ring has a terrible track record when it comes to security even for the users who buy them. High profile incidents where Ring cameras were hacked and used to spy on children forced the company to make some improvements, but from a technical perspective it’s just a bad idea to fill your home with internet-connected devices capable of constantly watching and listening. I’d never trust one of these devices on my front door or around my kids. Review sites are putting their credibility at risk by continuing to recommend these products. Oh, and also they sometimes catch fire?”
The campaign targets CNET, Consumer Reports, Gizmodo, Tom’s Guide, TechRadar, and Digital Trends for best in category Ring recommendations made in the past year. Wirecutter, another target, suspended their Ring review last December but are in the process of reviewing the camera for a possible reversal of suspension. The groups plan to mobilize thousands of supporters to get these sites to rescind their endorsement and update relevant guides before the holidays.
Greer continues, “we know these recommendations play a critical role in purchasing decisions people make during the holidays. It’s important reviewers uphold their commitment to consumers and the trust the public puts in their endorsements by withdrawing or suspending their Ring recommendation. Honestly, this should have happened already. Over the summer a man was killed by sheriffs in a Ring related incident. How many people have to be jailed or killed before tech reviewers realize Ring is not safe for anyone.”