Amazon is under fire over revelations that it did secret deals with local police departments to buzz-market its Internet of Things "Ring" brand surveillance doorbells, but Ring's shady history predates its acquisition by Amazon in 2017.
Earlier that year, Ring created a "Digital Neighborhood Watch" program that offered "swag" and discounts to customers who report "suspicious activity" to local cops. The presentation detailing this promotion hints that this was the first step in a wider project to create a network of private surveillance informants who would build value for Ring.
Among the activities that Ring encouraged its kappos to report to the police were "loitering," "strange vans and cars," "people posing as utility workers" and "people walking down the street looking into car windows." Also: "unusual activity."
The presentation laying out the program is still available on Ring's website, but the company says the program was limited and short-lived, and discontinued by Amazon after the company's acquisition.
Ring outlines a 4-month “milestone” progression that Digital Neighborhood Watches should follow:
Month 1: Organize a Digital Neighborhood Watch event and post video from the event on social media. Ring claims that all attendees will receive promo codes for Ring device purchases.
Month 2: “Convert 10 new users by downloading Ring app and receive free swag for all users.” The document doesn’t specify what this swag is.
Month 3: “Solve a crime with the help of our local police officer and receive 50% off any product.”
Month 4: “Blog about Ring app in a positive way on personal Facebook and/or promote Ring devices in Neighborhood Watch Facebook page.” People who did this received unspecified free swag upon providing a screenshot of the posts to Ring.
Ring Told People to Snitch on Their Neighbors in Exchange for Free Stuff [Caroline Haskins/Motherboard]