Editorial – Smile, you’re on camera

Tom Henihan

In the U.S., a number of police forces have established a partnership with doorbell camera company Ring, with initiatives such as the police and Ring sharing the cost of the cameras then raffling them to members of the community.

This is a promotion pure and simple.

Setting up the police as agents for a private security company is equivalent in many ways to doctors over prescribing medications because they are at the disposal of the drug companies.

Keeping communities safe at all costs can come at a very high cost indeed when considering the sheer invasiveness of these recording devices as they create an environment of perpetual surveillance.

Stoking fear is the primary marketing tool when selling these security cameras.

While people might have anxiety about a break-in at their home, do homeowners need the police and Ring coming up the driveways stoking those anxieties.

Creating this kind of paranoia and siege mentality puts homeowners in a hyper-vigilant, suspicious mindset that incites suspicion towards every stranger who rings the doorbell.

The TV commercials advertising the cameras depict homeowners as more menacing than the stereotypical hoodlum loitering around the front door.

In one of these commercials thieves attempt to steal a package from a doorstep and as Ring is owned by Amazon, keeping those parcels safe must be of the first importance.

The strategy in selling doorbell cameras is to stoke a fear of crime in neighbourhoods that experience little or no crime, then offer the cameras to appease the fear created, in this instance, by the police and Ring.

To ensure that community fears are always high, along with commercials showing undesirables prowling around someone’s house, Ring is also recruiting a managing news editor to “deliver breaking crime news alerts to our neighbours.”

“Our neighbours: Ring is not interested in neighbours being neighbourly. They are interested in painting everyone who rings the doorbell in a middleclass or affluent neighbourhood as a potential thief.

There is also some concern that these cameras may encourage racial stereotyping.

The doorbell cameras may make the police’s job easier, but the task of the police is to make things safe and secure without encroaching on the liberties and privacy of others.

Police tout the cameras as a digital neighbourhood watch, but these cameras are nothing similar to someone walking across the street to ask politely if they can help, when someone is calling at a neighbour’s home.

The cameras are a source of constant surveillance, recording people going about their business with nothing sinister in mind.

Common thieves are not responsible for everything stolen: a sense of trust and kindness can be spirited away by the manipulations of people using fear to sell this kind of surveillance equipment.

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