Making its television premiere tonight, “Ring Nation” is debuting amid calls from advocacy groups to cancel the show. MGM (now owned by Amazon) is leveraging footage from Ring security cameras (also owned by Amazon) to create a show along the lines of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” with Wanda Sykes as host. The show is a thinly veiled advertisement within an advertisement, but beyond that, groups like MediaJustice are concerned that the show is “normalizing and promoting Amazon Ring’s dangerous network of surveillance cameras.”
Ring told TechCrunch that the show will also include videos from cell phones and video cameras.
Ring has posed a number of serious security issues, like leaking users’ home addresses. Ring has also raised ethical concerns by sharing footage with the government without users’ permission.
Between January and July of this year, Amazon shared Ring doorbell footage with U.S. authorities 11 times without the device owner’s consent. Ring has been critiqued for working closely with at least 2,200 police departments around the United States, allowing police to request video doorbell camera footage from homeowners through Ring’s Neighbors app. Like Citizen and Nextdoor, Ring’s Neighbors app tracks local crime and allows for anonymous discussion. Ring’s police partners can also request video footage on the app.
In an open letter to MGM, MediaJustice wrote, “‘Ring Nation’ attempts to put a happy face on a dangerous product. Not only will MGM’s ‘Ring Nation’ further normalize harmful neighborhood surveillance, it will deepen the pockets of a corporation that profits from the criminalization of communities of color and surveilling the whereabouts and actions of millions.” Forty other human rights organizations signed the letter.
Daily Kos, a progressive media group, posted a petition for MGM to cancel “Ring Nation.” Almost 70,000 people have signed the petition.
Ring only started disclosing its connections with law enforcement after the U.S. government sent demands for transparency from the company. In a 2019 letter, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said that the company’s relationship with police forces raise civil liberties concerns.
“The integration of Ring’s network of cameras with law enforcement offices could easily create a surveillance network that places dangerous burdens on people of color and feeds racial anxieties in local communities,” Sen. Markey wrote at the time. “In light of evidence that existing facial recognition technology disproportionately misidentifies African Americans and Latinos, a product like this has the potential to catalyze racial profiling and harm people of color.”
Senator Markey has since spoken out against the “Ring Nation” show as well.
“The Ring platform has too often made over-policing and over-surveillance a real and pressing problem for America’s neighborhoods, and attempts to normalize these problems are no laughing matter,” Senator Markey told the Hollywood Reporter.
Big Fish Entertainment, the subsidiary of MGM working on the show, did not respond to request for comment.
Update, 9/26/22, 9:09 PM ET: Added response from Ring.