Amazon's secret deals with cops gave corporate PR a veto over everything the cops said about their products

Last week, Motherboard broke a story revealing that Amazon had entered into secret agreements with local law enforcement agencies that had the cops pushing Ring surveillance doorbells to the people they were sworn to protect, in exchange for freebies and access to a system that let them request access to footage recorded by the Amazon's industry-leading internet-of-shit home surveillance tools.

Later, a public records request put the number of police departments that had entered into these agreements with Amazon at more than 200.

Now, a new report from Gizmodo's Dell Cameron reveals the text of the boilerplate agreements that Amazon entered into with cops: under the terms of these deals, cops would be supplied with scripts and graphics that they were to use to promote Amazon products, and would be required to get Amazon's permission to diverge from these premade talking-points and art. The agreements contain a gag-clause that prohibits the cops from disclosing that they were parroting corporate PR, and the clause contained no carve out for public records requests.

Ring's agreements require cops to encourage citizens to install "Neighbors" -- a "neighborhood watch" app that Ring users can use to report "suspicious characters" captured by their doorbells (unsurprisingly, the reports generated by this app are a racist dumpster-fire).

Thankfully, the attorneys who negotiated Boca Raton's Amazon deal crossed out the confidentiality clause, which allowed for all of this to come to light through a public records request.

Ring gives discounted surveillance doorbells to city employees and supplies products for raffles; the members of the public who win these doorbells are not generally informed that Amazon provides their local law enforcement with comprehensive dossiers on everyone who activates a Ring doorbell, including "where they live, the MAC addresses of each of their devices, and how to reach them by email or phone."

Ring appears to take full advantage of the privilege granting it power over police statements. The company actively crafts various types of messages that, to the general public, are seemingly written by the police themselves. Through records requests in California, Florida, and Texas, Gizmodo obtained details about Ring’s so-called “press packets” issued to partnering agencies. These include a “Press Release Template,” “Social Media Templates,” and “Key Talking Points,” as well as high-resolution Ring and Neighbors App logos “to incorporate with PR materials as needed.”

What’s more, the packets are accompanied by instructions dictating that final drafts of public remarks must be sent to Ring so that the company’s PR team can “review and sign off” before they’re sent to local news outlets. The social media templates, which Gizmodo obtained from the Frisco Police Department, are also widely in use. No fewer than 33 police departments have copied and pasted Ring’s suggested tweet asking residents to “Join us by downloading the free ‘Neighbors’ app.”

Everything Cops Say About Amazon's Ring Is Scripted or Approved by Ring [Dell Cameron/Gizmodo]

(Image: Funny Party Hats, modified)

(Image: Cryteria, CC-BY, modified)