MGM (which is owned by Amazon) is creating a viral video show based on footage from Ring security cameras (also owned by Amazon). The syndicated TV show, “Ring Nation”, is poised to become a modern surveillance-tinged version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” hosted by Wanda Sykes.
According to a report in Deadline, the show will feature Ring footage of “neighbors rescuing neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions, and silly animals.” Ring is also known for activities such as accidentally leaking people’s home addresses and handing over footage to the government without users’ consent.
Between January and July of this year, Amazon shared footage of the doorbell with US authorities 11 times without permission from the device owner. Ring has been criticized for working unusually tight with at least 2,200 police departments in the United States, allowing police to request video camera images of homeowners’ doorbells through the Ring’s Neighbors app. Like Citizen and Nextdoor, the Neighbors app tracks local crime and allows users to comment anonymously – plus, Ring’s police partners can publicly request video images in the app.
An Amazon police surveillance network is bad enough, but Neighbors users have also repeatedly faced safety and security issues.
An executive at MGM, Barry Poznick, praised the new show: “From the incredible, to the hilarious and uplifting viral moments you must see every day from across the country, Ring Nation offers something for everyone watching at home.”
But what viewers at home may really want is data privacy.
Ring only began disclosing his connections to law enforcement after the US government requested transparency. In a 2019 letter, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said the company’s relationship with law enforcement raises civil liberties concerns.
“Integrating Ring’s network of cameras with law enforcement agencies could easily create a surveillance network that places dangerous burdens on people of color and fuels racial fears in local communities,” Senator Markey wrote. “In light of the 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.”
Amazon bought the smart video doorbell company in 2018 for $1 billion and bought MGM earlier this year for $8.5 billion. Now these two investments – seemingly unrelated – are merging to create a late capitalist dystopian spectacle that we could not have imagined in our worst nightmares. Amazon also just spent $1.7 billion on iRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum, but we can’t imagine how that acquisition could ever inspire a horrific TV show.