Amazon Is an Even Bigger Threat to Privacy Than Facebook

With its Ring doorbell, the tech giant can now see what you buy, what you browse, and who you’re letting into your home

Trevor Timm
Published in
4 min readNov 8, 2019
Credit: Grant Hindsley/Getty

“W“Where were you at 6 p.m. last night?” asked a marketing email sent to journalists immediately following Halloween last week. It was sent by Ring, Amazon’s doorstep surveillance system that sends video directly to the police.

“If you were trick-or-treating,” it continued, “you were part of the millions of people out ringing doorbells this Halloween!” On Instagram, Ring boasted about just how many millions of children it had recorded on video. Apparently, the company was hoping reporters would write a cute story; instead everyone was extremely disturbed.

But Ring is just one fiefdom in Amazon’s surveillance kingdom. The tech giant may already know everything you buy and everything you browse, and their Orwellian reach into society is only becoming worse.

Amazon has arguably become an even bigger threat to American’s privacy than Facebook.

Ring has been a growing source of controversy over the past few months, as its cameras have become more popular — likely without people fully knowing what they’ve signed up for. Ring claims to have sold millions of their spying doorbells to customers since its existence, but it’s the company’s aggressive campaign to partner with police organizations that has everyone really spooked. Law enforcement agencies in over 400 cities and towns can submit automated requests for people’s surveillance footage, no warrant or any legal process whatsoever required. Amazon even coaches police on how to coax more footage out of users with getting a warrant.

How many people using Ring know that their private footage is being watched halfway around the world by random strangers?

Led by Fight For the Future, an advocacy organization focused on protecting internet rights, more than 30 civil rights organizations called on Amazon to immediately halt its Ring partnerships with police, yet Amazon only doubled down in response to the criticism.



Trevor Timm
Writer for

Trevor Timm is the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation. His writing has appeared the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Intercept.