Amazon’s Smart Doorbell Is Creepy as Hell
The dark future of neighborhood watch has arrived
Ring, an Amazon-owned smart doorbell company, wants to help you and your neighbors gossip about “suspicious activity” on your street with a standalone app called Neighbors. The app, which was introduced in May, encourages people to bring the surveillance state home by uploading video clips and publishing reports about neighborhood activities, which are then broadcast to other users and participating police departments.
Ring markets Neighbors as a modern version of an old-school neighborhood watch program, encouraging communities to band together to protect one another and combat crime. In a commercial for Neighbors, a pair of greasy would-be package thieves are deterred from their crime after realizing video of them is being broadcast throughout the neighborhood. No cops are called, but a man walking his beagle, who has been alerted to their presence through the Neighbors app, watches the thwarted thieves drive their clunker out of the neighborhood, crime averted.
Two things make Neighbors different than similar services like Nextdoor. First is the exclusive focus on crime. Neighbors prohibits posts that aren’t about crime and safety, which means that if you have nothing suspicious to post about, you’re not welcome to post at all. Second is the direct connection Neighbors forges with police. Not only will you and your neighbors be watching your streets through the app — so will the cops. Police departments can join Neighbors, view publicly uploaded videos, and request additional data from Ring for areas “where an incident may have occurred.” Just like traditional neighborhood watch programs, Neighbors will give cops extra eyes on the streets, but instead of reports from block captains, police will get video streams uploaded by the community.
What is clear is that neighborhood watch is great at violating people’s civil rights, encouraging racial profiling, and annoying neighbors.
Sure, no one wants to feel unsafe walking down the street or in their own home. In theory, introducing a simple, app-based way for individuals to engage in the…