The Ring doorbell revolutionized smart cameras. Instead of just having cameras fixated on the area in front of your home, now the cameras are incorporated with your front entryway to alert you to visitors and prowlers in real time on your phone as well as allowing you to converse with the visitor for both convenience and safety. A recent patent shows that Ring is now looking to technology that will be able to alert the police of potential danger.
Ring Doorbell Patent
Certainly one of the reasons we want to be alerted to who is on our doorstep is that we want to make sure it’s not someone with nefarious ideas, such as a thief, a voyeur, a sex offender, etc. Sure, we want to get rid of annoying salespeople, but paramount is keeping safe.
With Amazon having recently acquired the Ring doorbell system that incorporates a smart camera system with a microphone into your doorbell, they seem to have the same concerns for your entryway. Ring has filed for a patent that will allow it to alert the police of “suspicious” individuals who appear on your doorstep.
CNN first discovered a patent that was filed by Jamie Siminoff, Ring’s chief executive. It suggests that Ring’s video surveillance would report video surveillance directly to police of suspected nefarious individuals as “a powerful deterrent against would-be burglars.” It would potentially use facial images picked up from the Ring and compare them to a “database of suspicious persons.”
It’s not an idea that doesn’t have a strong foothold in current technology. Google’s Nest Hello video doorbells use facial recognition software that identifies friends and family waiting at the door. However, it doesn’t label such people as nefarious and doesn’t alert the police if your friend also happens to have a criminal past.
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement showing they don’t believe this idea of Amazon’s is a smart one.
“Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells,” remarked Jacob Snow, an ACLU representative.
Ring has also looked out for their customers’ safety with the new “Neighbors” app. Siminoff told CNET that it allows people to “view and comment on crime and security information in their communities.”
“We’re seeing it become a foundation,” he added. “It enhances everything we do in the community. The community watchdog app has more than a million active users, so Amazon isn’t barking up the wrong tree by pursuing software that will alert authorities of similar information.
The ACLU looks at the dangers of using facial recognition technology that may notify the police of someone who means no harm by being on your doorstep.
“Just imagine if a person who has a criminal record is delivering a package, but the system has been set to automatically recognize someone who has a prior criminal history as a ‘suspicious person,’ and then the cops show up at this place when this person is just doing his job,” suggested Snow.
“Then you have an interaction between police and this individual, and we’re seeing how interactions between people of color and the police can turn deadly for any reason or for no reason at all.”
Sure, this could be looked at as something that infringes on people’s rights to have videos of them on your doorstep sent to the authorities. But if they are a delivery person, they would be in uniform, and police would see this on the video. And if they aren’t in uniform and aren’t someone you know, perhaps they don’t belong on your doorstep in the first place, no matter their intention.
But it does bring up a point with facial recognition technology that has been discussed before. Facial recognition technology isn’t perfect, as it’s only as smart as the information that has been fed into it. Amazon would have to use proper and wise training for the software and connect to it with a confirmed database of convicted criminals, so that innocent people aren’t being labeled as being problematic.
What do you think of Amazon and Ring’s potential plans with the Ring doorbell? Does this patent show a way to prevent potential harm? Let us know what you think of the Ring doorbell patent in the comments below.
Image Credit: Ring via Wikimedia Commons and Public domain