Amazon’s Home Surveillance declared war on “Dirtbag Criminals” as company got closer to the police.
On March 17, 2016, Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff emailed out a company-wide declaration of war. The message, under the subject line “Going to war,” made two things clear to the home surveillance company’s hundreds of employees: Everyone was getting free camouflage-print T-shirts (“They look awesome,” assured Siminoff), and the company’s new mission was to use consumer electronics to fight crime. “We are going to war with anyone that wants to harm a neighborhood,” Siminoff wrote — and indeed Ring made it easier for police and worried neighbors to get their hands on footage from Ring home cameras. Internal documents and video reviewed by The Intercept show why this merging of private tech business and public law enforcement has troubling privacy implications.
This first declaration of startup militancy — which Siminoff would later refer to as “Ring War I” or simply “RW1” — would be followed by more, equally clumsy attempts at corporate galvanization, some aimed at competitors or lackluster customer support. But the RW1 email is striking in how baldly it lays out the priorities and values of Ring, a company now owned by Amazon and facing strident criticism over its mishandling of customer data, as previously reported by The Intercept and The Information.
Ring and Siminoff, who still leads the company, haven’t been shy about their focus on crime-fighting. In fact, Ring’s emphasis not only on personal peace of mind, but also active crime-fighting has been instrumental in differentiating its cloud-connected doorbell and household surveillance gear from those made by its competitors. Ring products come with access to a social app called Neighbors that allows customers to not just to keep tabs on their own property, but also to share information about suspicious-looking individuals and alleged criminality with the rest of the block. In other words, Ring’s cameras aren’t just for keeping tabs on your own stoop or garage — they work to create a private-sector security bubble around entire residential areas, a neighborhood watch for the era of the so-called smart home.
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