Its market dominance came, in large part, as a result of Ring’s efforts, beginning in 2016, to partner with law enforcement agencies.
At various points, the company offered free cameras to individual officials, as well as entire departments, often in exchange for promoting Ring in the officials’ jurisdictions. For a time, they also offered law enforcement partners a special portal to access community video, stopping only after multiple media outlets reported on the process, followed by public outcry. However, that didn’t stop Ring’s police problem; Earlier this summer, in response to a 2019 request for information from Senator Ed Markey, the company admitted to turning over video content to law enforcement without the consent of the video owner at least 11 times this year.
“Everything Amazon does prioritizes growth, expansion and reach,” says Chris Gilliard, a visiting scholar at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center and a vocal critic of surveillance technologies. In that sense, “Ring Nation is best placed along a continuum … this new initiative seems like an attempt to cement Ring’s social acceptance,” he adds.
So now, Gilliard explains, it’s no surprise that the company is turning to a new strategy to further normalize surveillance.
All in good “fun”
These darker sides of surveillance technology will not be part of the Ring Nation narrative. After all, they don’t exactly fit in with the show’s mission to give “friends and family a fun new way to enjoy time together,” as Ring founder Jamie Siminoff said in a press release.
Instead, in a self-reinforcing cycle, the show will significantly expand Ring’s video audience, the pool of potential Ring video creators, and then (and most importantly) the number of available Ring cameras. And many of these new customers probably don’t think twice about what their new Ring camera is actually doing.
“Ring prides itself on being incredibly accessible, [but] it’s still a technological thing,” explains Guariglia of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But if you park your non-tech-savvy relatives in front of the TV all day and they watch the funniest home videos from Ring Cameras, Ring could stream to an audience that maybe Amazon had a harder time getting on board with.”
In other words, if the company gets its way, Ring Nation, the TV show, will bring us one step closer to a Ring Nation, IRL.