In one of many examples of everyday privacy issues that seem to be rising to the top of consumer and lawmaker concerns, Ring doorbells (owned by Amazon) has disclosed in response to a Congressional inquiry that it has shared footage with law enforcement eleven times this year without user consent. The Ring terms and conditions state that Ring may share information with law enforcement if served with a warrant or when Ring determines that an emergency exists. The disclosure to Congress says that the instances of sharing this year fell under Ring's emergency determination.
Why It Matters
At least one state has outlawed the use of smart home device data without consent, a warrant, or another specific exception. Many businesses have access to data about people -- phone and ISP companies routinely produce information to law enforcement -- but frequently take the position that they will produce it only in response to a warrant. The Congressional inquiry into Ring's practices may amount to nothing, but it seems to be of a piece with other privacy-oriented actions happening at the federal level, including efforts to pass a national privacy law and warning shots from regulators that location data is to be protected as private.
The country is catching up to the EU and other jurisdictions in thinking about privacy and devices; and the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the privacy-based Roe v. Wade decision may speed up this process.