Amazon’s home security subsidiary Ring has released a tiny drone to watch over users’ possessions while they’re gone – capitalizing on paranoia and laziness while further cementing the presence of Big Brother in the home.
The Ring Always Home Cam is a pint-sized drone that syncs up with the user’s Ring home security system to fly around checking on things whenever the user is away. Homeowners can watch it do its thing on their smartphones, but can’t manually control it – which must be frustrating in the event the flying spy does actually catch someone breaking in.
The drone is apparently outfitted with “collision-avoidance technology,” meaning it won’t crash into walls or knock over priceless vases, and hums loudly in order to announce its presence to anyone nearby. When it’s dormant, its camera is supposed to be hidden by the charging station.
Ring doesn’t just want to get a good view of the entire inside of your home – it’s also debuting a self-explanatory product called Mailbox Sensor, which sits inside the door of the user’s mailbox and sends an alert when mail is delivered.
Before Ring was acquired by Amazon in 2018, its offerings were limited to WiFi-enabled “smart doorbells” that alerted users via smartphone or tablet that someone was at the door, supplying video and audio of the visitor. However, the brand has metastasized and been incorporated into Amazon’s Alexa line of smart-home products, creating an all-encompassing interactive home surveillance system.
Ring has also reached out to police departments across the US, selling that surveillance system as a valuable crime-fighting tool – and not necessarily with the knowledge or consent of users. By late 2019, over 400 US police departments had signed on to video-sharing partnerships with the Amazon subsidiary, giving them access even to users’ deleted footage. Police unsuccessful in convincing local Ring users to turn over the footage from their doorbells can simply reach out to Amazon and grab it – as long as they have a “valid and binding legal demand.”
While Amazon announced a one year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology Rekognition in June – riding the wave of anti-police sentiment generated by the popular Black Lives Matter movement – there has been no similar move to restrict access to the multitude of Ring doorbell cameras feeding street footage to police departments.
The cameras come with free access to a social network called Neighbors, which allows Ring users to swap footage and talk about suspicious happenings in their area – conversations which are also accessible to the police departments who partner with Amazon.
Amazon filed a patent last year for surveillance drones designed for the great outdoors – essentially package delivery bots that have the helpful side function of surveilling subscribers’ properties, supposedly to check for broken windows, prowlers, or fires. And last month, the megacorporation was given authorization to operate its Prime Air delivery drones after years of delay, potentially shortening delivery time to just 30 minutes.
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