What Is Amazon’s Ring Nation Show And Why Is It So Controversial?

The Ring doorbell was created because its inventor, Jamie Siminoff, could not hear his doorbell while working in his garage. His solution was a WiFi-enabled doorbell that alerted his phone and enabled video communication when someone was at the door.

In 2022, Amazon decided to use the footage from Ring doorbells to create a reality TV show called Ring Nation. Sounds interesting, right? It’s interesting, but it also turns out to be somewhat controversial.

What is Ring Nation?

Ring Nation is a combination of surveillance footage and reality TV. According to Deadline, the show, narrated by comedian Wanda Sykes, features viral videos shared by people from their Ring video doorbells and smart home cameras. Think America’s funniest home movies, updated for the 21st century.

The series features clips such as neighbors rescuing neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions, and crazy animals.

Ring Nation debuted on September 26, 2022, amid controversy, as activists called for the show to be canceled.

Why activists want to cancel Ring Nation

A coalition of activists called Media Justice and Allies has raised strong objections to Ring Nation for a variety of reasons…

1. Standardization of supervision

in a open letter shared by Media Justice against the producers of Ring Nation, the coalition has accused Ring Nation of trying to “put a happy face on a dangerous product”. Media Justice argues that by making video surveillance happy and fun, Ring Nation wants society to accept the presence of cameras everywhere.

2. Violation of Privacy

The activists claim that the show will promote a product that promotes privacy violations.

While Ring claims it only shares images with authorities with the owner’s permission or on the orders of a judge, investigation by Senator Ed Markey claims otherwise. The company clarified to us that “Ring sometimes voluntarily provides information to law enforcement officers when there is an emergency” in an effort to save lives.

3. Police access to Neighbors app

Ring previously had partnerships with more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies in the US. Under the program, Ring offered free cameras to the police in exchange for promoting Ring in their jurisdictions. That is no longer the case, however, as Ring stopped donating to the police in 2019.

The coalition of activists claims Ring is giving police backdoor access to its Neighbors app through a special portal. The coalition says this access is prone to abuse, and Ring Nation is trying to normalize it. However, Ring told us that “the police do not have free access to customer images through the Neighbors app.” Instead, requests may be made for assistance with ongoing investigations, and any information or recordings must be shared by users with their knowledge.

4. Risks to Vulnerable Groups

The coalition argues that Ring benefits from racial profiling. According to a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Los Angeles Police Department alleges that footage from Ring cameras was used to track and monitor Black Lives Matter protesters. Ring has refuted this claim, stating that “requests for lawful activities, such as protests” are strictly prohibited. The cited LAPD case met Amazon’s guidelines because it “included a case number and specifically stated that the public security enforcement user requested video to identify only individuals responsible for theft, property damage, and personal injury.”

In addition to disproportionately targeting people of color, the activists claim Ring cameras allow vigilantes to patrol their neighbors and racially profile bystanders, as well as threaten abortion seekers. Again, Ring has refuted this claim by stating that it has made “major design and moderation changes to combat prejudice” and made it clear that “racial profiling has no place on Neighbours”.

Should Amazon Cancel Ring Nation?

According to the MIT Technology ReviewRing says any footage shot without permission will not make it to the show.

As with everything we do, privacy is fundamental to the show, and we get permission for every video from the owner and anyone identifiable in the video or from companies that own the rights to the clips.

That sounds reasonable enough. However, the activists do not say that the show will invade people’s privacy. Instead, they say the show will promote Ring.

There are many questions about the Ring Doorbell invading other people’s privacy. Promoting this product may not be a good idea. Therefore, Ring Nation will use entertainment to convince society to accept mass surveillance and a product the activists consider “dangerous.”

This is a strong argument, which this writer absolutely agrees with. There are several reasons not to install Ring doorbells. However, we also consider it a lost argument. Why? Amazon won’t cancel a show that is likely to become a commercial success for them, not to mention a marketing tool for Ring.

Perhaps a better approach would be for the activists to work with Congress to pass laws that protect Ring users and the civil liberties of the public.

The need to regulate home surveillance

The home surveillance industry is a real threat to users and everyone else. Like Facebook and social media in general, Ring users are at risk of having their privacy violated.

The US government is moving towards greater regulation of social media and big tech, and we believe the same should apply to home monitoring products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *