Ring today announced that local government agencies will be able to have an official presence on the company’s Neighbors app.
Beginning with the City of North Port and Pinellas County Government in Florida and the City of Fulton in New York, the new program will allow government organizations to provide safety information through Neighbors, the Amazon-owned company’s neighborhood watch feature that alerts users to nearby alleged crimes and events.
“Local government agencies, such as county and municipality governments and their departments, play an important role in public safety,” Ring wrote in a blog post published this afternoon. “This pilot program will enable users in select municipalities to receive more safety information, updates and tips from a broader group of local agencies, all in one place.”
Participating local government agencies will have public profiles in Neighbors that users can visit to see their activity and posts. Ring notes that the program won’t enable the agencies to make a “Request for Assistance” on Neighbors, a capability that lets law enforcement ask the public for help with an active investigation. For the time being, that’ll remain reserved to the police departments that’ve partnered with Ring.
The new Ring program, while helpful on its face, is unlikely win over consumer advocates who’ve argued the company’s devices are a security threat. As TechCrunch previously reported, Ring has a history of sharing footage with the government without users’ permission. Between January and July of this year alone, Amazon shared Ring doorbell footage with U.S. authorities 11 times without informing the device owners.
Ring has been criticized for working closely with thousands of police departments around the U.S., allowing police to request video doorbell camera footage from homeowners through Neighbors. Ring only began disclosing its connections with law enforcement after the U.S. government sent demands for transparency from the company.