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 government of North Port and Pinellas County in Florida and the city of Fulton in New York, the new program will allow government organizations to provide safety information through Neighbors, the neighborhood watch function from the Amazon-owned company that alerts users to nearby crimes and events.
“Local government agencies, such as county and municipal governments and their departments, play an important role in public safety,” Ring wrote in a blog post published this afternoon. “This pilot program will allow users in select municipalities to receive more safety information, updates and advice 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 will not allow agencies to make a “request for assistance” on neighbors, a capability that allows law enforcement to ask the public for help with an active investigation. For the time being, this will remain reserved for Ring’s partner police services.
The new Ring program, while helpful on the face of it, is unlikely to win over consumer advocates who have argued the company’s devices pose a security threat. As TechCrunch previously reported, Ring has a history of sharing images with the government without users’ permission. Between January and July of this year alone, Amazon shared Ring doorbell images with US authorities 11 times without informing device owners.
Ring has come under fire for working closely with thousands of police departments across the United States, allowing police to request video doorbell camera footage from homeowners through Neighbors. Ring only began disclosing its ties to law enforcement after the US government sent transparency requests to the company.