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Ring Continues To Pitch Facial Recognition To Law Enforcement While Claiming It Won’t Be Adding Facial Recognition To Its Cameras

Published: February 24, 2020
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Source: Tech Dirt

Ring continues to insist it is not adding facial recognition to its sadly super-popular doorbell cameras. Its insistence is suspect for several reasons.

First, it employs a "Head of Facial Recognition Tech" at its Ukraine office. A company that isn’t planning to add facial recognition doesn’t need anyone in charge of tech it’s not planning on using.

Second, its lengthy answers to Congressional questions stated that the company would continue to develop and explore other options in response to "customer demand." If enough customers express an interest in facial recognition, Ring would be stupid not to add that to its list of features, even if it has spent months denying it ever plans to do so.

Third, its answers to direct questions about facial recognition software are anything but direct. Cyrus Farivar of NBC News asked Ring about this feature after receiving something that indicated otherwise from a public records request. The response sounds firm but really isn’t.

Morgan Culbertson, Ring spox, emailed:

"The features described are not in development or in use, and Ring does not use facial recognition technology…"

This sounds definitive but Ring’s pitch to cops -- obtained by Farivar -- says something different:

At the 1:30 mark, the video says the company is working on future versions that will include "suspicious activity detection and person recognition."

How does the company reconcile this pitch to law enforcement with its public statements on the subject? It can’t. So, it doesn’t. Farivar’s questions to Ring about this video went unanswered.

Maybe the explanation is that Ring isn’t planning to add it to its consumer products but is developing something for law enforcement to apply to footage via its portal. This would allow Ring to continue to claim it’s not adding facial recognition software to its cameras while still making use of its "Head of Facial Recognition" person.

But there’s also no reason to believe Ring is being honest about any of this. Like any company under the x-ray, it will say what serves it best right now even if it means rolling back those quasi-promises the minute Ring feels it can get away with making its products even more problematic.

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