For more than a year, police departments partnered with Amazon's Ring unit had access to a map showing where its video doorbells were installed, down to the street, public documents revealed. So while Ring said it didn't provide police with addresses for the devices, a feature in the map tool let them get extremely close. The feature was removed in July.
Public documents from the Rolling Meadows Police Department in Illinois, obtained by privacy researcher Shreyas Gandlur and reviewed by CNET, revealed that police had access to a heat map that showed the concentration of Ring cameras in a neighborhood.
In its default state, the heat map showed police where Ring cameras are concentrated: the darker the shade, the more the cameras. But when zoomed in, it would show light circles around individual locations, essentially outing Ring owners to police. Police could also type in specific addresses to see the cameras in the surrounding area.
In a statement, Ring denied that its heat map tool gave exact locations of its users.
"As previously stated, our video request feature does not give police access to the locations of devices. Ring is constantly working to improve our products and services and, earlier this year, we updated the video request process to no longer include any device density information," the company said. "Previous iterations of the video request feature included approximate device density, and locations were obfuscated to protect user privacy. Zooming into areas would not provide actual device locations."
The heat maps feature was one of several surveillance tools that Ring told police "should not be shared with the public." The first Ring police partnership listed started in March 2018, and the video doorbell company had at least 335 police partners by the time it disabled the feature, records show.