US Cities Are Helping People Buy Amazon Surveillance Cameras Using Taxpayer Money

Cities and towns around the country are paying Ring up to $100,000 to subsidize the purchase of the company’s surveillance cameras for private residents. For every dollar committed by a city per these agreements, Ring will match it. This motivates cities to pledge tens of thousands of dollars to a tech giant that is building a private, nationwide surveillance network—which Amazon is using, in part, to secure the packages it delivers. A typical discount program will last several weeks, or until a certain number of residents take advantage of the program.

Motherboard has identified 14 American cities that have these discount programs as well as one city in the United Kingdom. However, there are probably more cities that have offered similar discount programs. Motherboard has reported that Ring courts local governments and police departments around the country to advertise, distribute, and use its products.

Cities are paying Ring so that residents can enter a private, mostly unregulated surveillance ecosystem that includes cameras both outside and inside their homes. Ring’s products are marketed with the typical language of security services, which serves to promote fear and encourage people to snitch on their neighbors. Ring camera footage is accessible at any moment by employees in Ukraine, and all Ring owners are, often unknowingly, engaging in de facto beta testing for Ring’s facial, object, and voice recognition systems. Gizmodo reported Thursday that Ring hires “news editors” to pull 911 call data into its “neighborhood watch” app, Neighbors, for real-time, unconfirmed crime alerts.

 

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