By Aaron Kesel
Amazon Ring is working with police departments all across the U.S. to stage sting operations on would-be package thieves according to several media reports. Meanwhile, if that’s not enough of a nightmare, Amazon’s Ring is also posting ads on Facebook of suspected petty criminals and calling them “Community Alerts.”
Activist Post has previously warned you that it’s not enough that Amazon is on record working with the FBI with its Facial Rekogntion biometric software … no, Amazon is also spying on customers of its recently purchased home security surveillance cameras called “Ring.”
Police departments are in agreement with Amazon Ring to run sting operations, scaring civilians into thinking their neighbors are thieves. If frightening the public wasn’t enough, a new report by Motherboard shows the flagrant disregard that the police department in Aurora, Colorado displayed when running their own operation deemed “Operation Grinch Grab,” which resulted in no arrests.
New documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information request show how Amazon, Ring, a GPS tracking company, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service collaborated on a package sting operation with the Aurora, Colorado Police Department in December. The operation involved equipping fake Amazon packages with GPS trackers, and surveilling doorsteps with Ring doorbell cameras in an effort to catch someone stealing a package on tape.
The emails purportedly show an employee of Amazon Ring and a police captain joking about not getting an arrest for the sting operation in Aurora, Colorado.
“As of now, we have not yielded any arrests,” Aurora Police Department captain Matthew Wells-Longshore wrote in an email on December 19. “I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad about that! Ha. Maybe happy that no one in the areas we are in are victims of package theft but sad that we won’t be able to showcase an arrest.”
Wells-Longshore added, “there probably won’t be any footage of an actual arrest.”
Morgan Culbertson, the Public Relations Coordinator for Neighbors, the “neighborhood watch” app developed by Ring, responded to Wells-Longshore, expressing misfortune that no arrests were made.
“Unfortunate that none were apprehended this time around but I am sure your community will appreciate that Aurora PD is being so proactive on their behalf,” Culbertson said.
Aurora, Colorado isn’t the only police department that has been involved in running sting operations with Ring on an unsuspecting public. Elsewhere, the police departments of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Jersey City, New Jersey have also conducted package theft sting operations on residents.
Motherboard also reported in the past that Hayward, California was also a target of this joint sting mission between Amazon and Police departments nationwide.
There is not any more information about other states that participated in package sting operations against civilians according to this writer’s research.
With that said, remember when Activist Post told you that this would be used as a dragnet to report your neighbors? At this point, they are literally just creating George Orwell’s 1984 or reinventing the Stasi, which was in part infiltrated by Nazis.
Both of those are not good concepts for our future and are worrying prospects, which is why many privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft (which also markets its own facial recognition system) have all raised concerns over the technology. They all point to the obvious issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement. But the bigger issue is one that Jay Stanley an attorney at ACLU highlighted a full-blown police state.
“We don’t want to live in a world where government bureaucrats can enter in your name into a database and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual, and medical associations and activities are,” Jay Stanley, an attorney with ACLU, told BuzzFeed News about the use of facial recognition cameras in retail stores. “And we don’t want a world in which people are being stopped and hassled by authorities because they bear resemblance to some scary character.” (Source)
Another horrifying fact, exposed by Motherboard‘s FOIA in Colorado is that those involved in the sting operation included the U.S. Postal Service. If that’s not enough, this was a mega PR campaign for Amazon Ring colluded between Ring, Aurora PDs and a GPS tracking company known as 7P Solutions. This leads us to the question, how many more of these campaigns are taking place?
“We want to do a big P.R. push on this too,” Aurora Police Night Duty Captain Redfearn wrote to representatives from Amazon, Ring, and 7P Solutions, “so I will give our [public information officer] office Morgan’s email to network about press/coverage.”
Police also offered some residents free Ring cameras, a terrifying prospect that police handed facial recognition spying devices to private citizens as a means to abuse them and surveil a neighborhood. Ring is known to have a “Police Portal,” built into its infrastructure; however, in the past, it has been said that police would need permission to utilize it, The Intercept reported.
This also comes as Amazon Ring recently launched its own crime news app. So the fact that police wanted to give citizens free Ring devices in exchange for being able to access the sophisticated facial recognition cameras, raises a red flag about the expansion of the police state. Further, since this isn’t a one-off event and the stings have been run in several states, as cited above, one has to wonder how widespread this expansion is and how many contract deals Ring has with various police departments across the U.S. unbeknownst to the general public.
Amazon’s Ring was reported last month by BuzzFeed News to be exploiting customers’ videos on Facebook advertisements, of petty criminals labeling them “Community Alerts.” The company then encouraged people to identify and report the petty criminals if they were spotted by the public. This, of course, raises ethical questions, and eyebrows all at once.
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Although Ring states each video shown has an associated report number, the police themselves aren’t actually vetting the footage before it’s shared as an ad for “Community Alerts.” So what’s stopping Ring posting a video of someone innocent simply because it didn’t get the scrutiny needed? Further, is Ring actively endangering petty thieves by publishing the videos? This author can imagine a scenario where a would-be thief is chased down by a mob. Is this really the type of society we want to live in, blanketed by Amazon surveillance cameras, while also skipping due process – i.e. innocent until proven guilty?
is it legal for ring/amazon to use faces of people, suspected BY THEIR CUSTOMERS to have done crimes, in an advertisement? especially given they havent consented or been convicted or anything. seems uhhh not right pic.twitter.com/a6SnOGT5dl
— jonhendrenPeaceful (@fart) June 4, 2019
Amazon seems hell-bent on creating a surveillance network, whether it’s through selling the FBI and law enforcement surveillance software like Amazon’s Facial Rekognition technology under fire by a government watchdog for its lack of privacy, or Amazon’s Ring’s neighborhood surveillance network working with police on sting operations.
Amazon employees who are against the company selling facial recognition technology to the government have protested the company’s decision. Over 20 groups of shareholders have sent several letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.
“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,” the shareholders, which reportedly include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote. “We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes.”
Another letter was just sent in January 2019, organized by Open Mic, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate accountability, and was filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood; both letters warned the technology poses “potential civil and human rights risks.”
Numerous civil rights organizations have also co-signed a letter demanding Amazon stop assisting government surveillance; and several members of Congress have expressed concerns about the partnerships.
Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained hundreds of pages of documents showing Amazon offering the software to law enforcement agencies across the country.
In a 2018 report, the ACLU called Amazon’s facial recognition project a “threat to civil liberties.”
Amazon responded by essentially shrugging off the employees’ and shareholder concerns by the head of the company’s public sector cloud computing business, stating that the team is “unwaveringly” committed to the U.S. government.
“We are unwaveringly in support of our law enforcement, defense and intelligence community,” Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, said July 20th last year at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, FedScoop reported.
Amazon has frequently worked with police, but so far never anything this direct and close with police departments, always working at arms length. In this instance, Amazon is literally working as a Public Relations firm to mortify citizens into thinking they live in a bad neighborhood and require their facial recognition neighborhood surveillance devices to be safe. However, if NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s files and CIA suspected WikiLeaks Vault 7 leaker Joshua Schulte taught us only one thing, it’s that we shouldn’t relinquish our privacy for safety. It’s one prospect to allow federal agencies to have access to being able to tap into electronics, it’s a whole other thing when that power is given to local police departments enabling further abuse.
San Francisco, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts have both banned facial recognition from their cities, citing concerns about the safety and accuracy of the software. Now it’s time for the rest of America to follow suit!
Here’s your friendly reminder — Jeff Bezos has a partnership deal with the CIA for $600 million worth of cloud servers. Maybe Bezos is secretly Dr. Evil petting his cat as his surveillance state comes to fruition, so he can rule and control the world through his technology? Amazon’s commitment to establishing a futuristic police state is terrifying because it’s happening at a quicker pace than anyone could have ever imagined.
Image credit: ACLU
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