Amazon has blurred the lines between public safety announcement and ad in a bizarre new initiative.
Its smart doorbell subsidiary Ring, which it purchased last year for a reported $US1 billion, has published a video of a suspected thief on its Facebook page, with the footage taken on a Ring camera.
After showing footage of the accused seemingly trying to break into a car, the video urges viewers to contact the police if they recognise the woman.
But the video is now popping up on Facebook newsfeeds as a sponsored post, meaning Ring has paid to promote it.
Social media users have been quick to point out the potential ethical issues such a post raises, especially as it has been sponsored.
is it legal for ring/amazon to use faces of people, suspected BY THEIR CUSTOMERS to have done crimes, in an advertisement? especially given they havent consented or been convicted or anything. seems uhhh not right pic.twitter.com/a6SnOGT5dl
— jonhendrenPeaceful (@fart) June 4, 2019
Ring has confirmed it promoted the post, telling Vice it was an initiative to “keep neighbourhoods safe”.
“We get the explicit consent of the Ring customer before the content is posted, and utilise sponsored, geotargeted posts to limit the content to relevant communities,” it added.
Ring describes such posts as ‘Community Alerts’, with the aim to allow community members to raise awareness and share tips.
It added that such posts will only ever be shared when there is an existing and verified police report case number.
But Ring/Amazon is now accused of creating an unofficial surveillance culture with the scheme.
As well as creating the surveillance devices, Ring offers users access to its ‘Neighbors’ app, where people can share crime information.
The company has also recently filed two patent applications for facial recognition technology in its cameras that would automatically alert law enforcement to suspicious people.