FBI expresses concern about video doorbells like Amazon Ring in leaked document

FBI has expressed concern about video doorbells like Amazon Ring, a leaked document has shown.

Video-enabled doorbells are increasingly popular – enabling householders to see who’s at the front door even if there not at home.

Amazon’s Ring, the most popular brand of video doorbell, integrates with a neighbourhood watch app which has provided surveillance footage to police in the past.

But now concerns have been raised the police themselves are worried they’re being watched.

A leaked internal FBI “technical analysis bulletin” from 2019 describes an incident in 2017 when an unauthorised person accessed live footage of police preparing to serve a search warrant.

The document describes how someone was able to illegally monitor law enforcement activity.

“Through the Wi-Fi doorbell system, the subject of the warrant remotely viewed the activity at his residence from another location and contacted his neighbour and landlord regarding the FBI’s presence there,” it says.

The document adds that the doorbells could potentially offer criminals with an early warning of a police raid, give away strategic locations in a siege situation, or let the owner capture pictures of officers “presenting a risk to their present and future safety”.

The bulletin continues: “Subjects likely use [smart doorbells] to hinder LE [law enforcement] investigations and possibly monitor LE activity.

“If used during the execution of a search, potential subjects could learn of LE’s presence nearby, and LE personnel could have their images captured, thereby presenting a risk to their present and future safety.”

Privacy campaigners have for some time been expressing concerns the doorbells could be used as a CCTV network by law enforcement.

Transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets published a huge amount of classified police documents covering the use of the doorbells, amongst numerous other police activities.

Amazon and other smart doorbell vendors had been criticised for providing data to police.

Opponents of the system say Amazon provided Ring doorbell footage to at least 200 US law enforcement agencies.

Digital rights group Fight the Future said it "undermined our democratic process and basic civil liberties".

In the UK, Wiltshire police have set up a database of private smart doorbells and other security systems and have asked owners to register their details with police so they can be contacted in the event of a crime being committed within range of their cameras.

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