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Amazon closing down law enforcement's easy access to Ring video isn't the whole story

Amazon sunsets Ring's Request for Assistance feature in Neighbors app

Amazon is ending the Request for Assistance feature in its Neighbors app — but that doesn't mean your footage can't be obtained by law enforcement easily elsewhere, without a warrant.

In 2021, Amazon-owned Ring launched a new feature called Request for Assistance (RFA). The feature just required law enforcement agencies to make public requests for Ring footage in the Neighbors app, regardless of intent, and without a warrant.

Prior to RFA, law enforcement agencies were able to directly request footage from users via email.

However, in a new blog post, Ring says that it is sunsetting RFA. Amazon doesn't explain why the feature is being removed or what — if anything — will replace it.

Evan Greer, director at advocacy group Fight for the Future, notes that this raises some red flags.

"[T]he footage these cameras collect will still be available to law enforcement through other avenues, especially in municipalities with camera registries," Greer said in an email.

"It's also not clear if Amazon will continue using police partnerships to market their surveillance products. In the end, we can't rely on Amazon to safeguard our intimate data and our civil rights."

Camera registry programs are programs that allow individuals and businesses to register their cameras with the local police department, with discounts often given on the hardware for doing so. This gives law enforcement agencies a convenient database of cameras in the area and an easy avenue to petition the owners for any footage captured.

The rest of the Ring blog post goes on to announce that it will be adding new features to the Neighbors app. Among the changes are new Ring Moments and Best of Ring categories.

These new categories function similarly to an Instagram Stories or TikTok-style feed of videos that go "beyond just crime and safety."