Ring’s Neighbors app is a tremendous add-on for Ring product owners but is also available for free on any iOS or Android device. Built from the ground up as a real-time crime watch tool, the Neighbors service allows users to receive and post local alerts about crime, safety alerts, suspicious activity, and other public-forum bulletins. Utilizing posted content from regular Neighbors users and law enforcement agencies, the app offers a massive peace-of-mind solution by keeping communities informed and connected — although, the means by which law enforcement has used the service to solicit information from users has been a point of contention.
Up until now, police, fire, and other investigative public services have had the ability to directly request that connected Ring device owners send recorded video to investigative units with a Neighbors function called Video Requests. During community investigations, device owners would receive private emails from law enforcement seeking surveillance footage from their Ring hardware — a solicitation that Ring owners could choose to accept or ignore. By changing privacy settings, users could also completely opt out of Video Requests altogether.
With many Ring customers concerned with the company’s dealings with police and other investigative units, Ring sought the services of various third-party experts to help reimagine the Neighbors app with improved transparency in mind. Beginning the week of June 7, these changes go live.
What users will see right away is no more Video Requests mention. As of June 7, the service is being completely removed from the Neighbors app and is being replaced with a new public safety agencies tool called “Request for Assistance.” Once instituted, investigative officials will only be able to request information, video, and images from communities via a public bulletin, as opposed to direct solicitation of Ring product owners. Additionally, Request for Assistance posts can only be issued by verified public safety profiles and must meet a number of criteria before going live. Each post must include a valid case number, agency contact info, be limited to 12 hours of feed time, and only encompass an area between 0.025-0.05 miles.
Request for Assistance posts can be toggled on and off and users are not required to respond unless they choose to. If a user wants to respond, written feedback and any attached media are completely secured and only viewable by the post’s designated public safety service.