Amazon Empire: Dave Limp Interview | FRONTLINE


Do you have a sense as to how many police forces around the world are using or providing Ring doorbells? We have two different things that we do with police departments, first responders in general. One is that we have a small number of those departments where we’ve done donation programs with them, where we try to get—which is one of my favorite programs, actually—where we actually think Ring can make neighborhoods safer, and certain police departments have enabled a small number of customers to get Ring devices. That’s one part there. I don’t know the actual number of that, but it’s a very small number compared to the number of devices that we ship every year, a fractional small number. The other thing that we do, which is also I think very positive for neighborhoods, is we work with police departments to give them the ability to ask customers in their neighborhoods if those customers would like to share a video clip if and when something happens that the police department or first responders deem actionable. Customers don’t have to do that. They can opt out of that permanently. They can only deliver a clip of video once to that department, and that’s a small hundreds of police departments around the world. One of the criticisms of Amazon has been, and especially when it pertains to Ring in this arrangement with police departments, is that in some ways it’s profiting off of fear. It’s—that in some ways Amazon is perpetuating a culture in which we need these cameras on the streets; people need to put these cameras on their doorbells and that there’s somehow this perpetuation of fear here about your neighbors and neighborhood watch. How do you respond to that? I completely disagree. I get probably many emails a week on just the Ring business—even more if you count the other devices— where a Ring device is helping a neighbor or a customer in such a positive way. Sometimes they’re just seeing a delightful moment. You may have missed a moment when your kids came home or when somebody visited you. There are times where they save lives, where a fire happens, and we can see that that fire is happening, and we can save lives. And it’s also a responsibility for—up to customers to decide how they want to feel safe in their neighborhoods, and if we can enable that with great technology like Ring, I think we’re doing a great job. It’s come to light that police departments in some ways have, one, been given talking points by Ring, and that they—as part of these agreements with the company, they have essentially turned into kind of salespeople essentially, a sales force that are recommending a particular product to citizens without those citizens necessarily knowing that there is an arrangement with Amazon with Ring. Why should people feel comfortable about that? I guess the term “arrangement,” all we’re doing is we’re giving products that they can in some cases donate to those that may have need. I don’t see it really any different than other things that first responders of all types can donate to customers or can sponsor for customers if they so choose—fire extinguishers that help with safety, bike locks, bike protection vests. This happens a lot with our first responders, police departments, fire departments around the world. And I think this is just an extension of that. Is it not more than that, though, when essentially—I just wonder if you can kind of step back from it and see it from the perspective of citizens who have police officers who are recommending a particular product to them, and that product happens to be your product, but that citizens don’t necessarily know that there have been agreements signed or that that police department has entered into an agreement with the company to basically give the company talking points. The agreements are separate from them recommending a product. They could recommend a Nest Cam; they could recommend our cameras. It doesn’t—you know, it’s not exclusive. They can choose to decide which products they think are best for their neighborhoods, their cities, and I treat that as kind of one bucket. The second thing is, you know, we don’t have any ongoing commitment with any of these police departments. If they so choose and they want to stop supporting Ring, or they don’t want to participate in the Ring [Neighbors] Portal, then that’s fine. We’re fine with that. I wonder, one of the things that comes up with Ring and doorbells that have cameras that are pointed out on the street is that to some degree, with the great innovation that’s coming out of Amazon in terms of devices, a lot of us can’t necessarily opt out. If I take a walk down the street and a Ring camera captures me walking my dog on the street, if I step into my hotel room which may have an Alexa device, or I get into a car of someone who has an Alexa device, in some ways we’re increasingly living in a world in which your products and your designs are there. Is there not some aspect of it where—can you see how it could be concerning in some ways that we all can’t opt out of that world at this point? Sure. I can see why it could be concerning to some customers. Our job in building that technology is to build it in such a way that it takes into account for the scenarios that you just talked about as best as we possibly can. The reality of it is that world happened way before Ring or Alexa. We all have phones in and around us, and they can do all the same things. They can wake up when you say their wake words; they have cameras on them, so that—that world exists. Now, what we try to do is we try for the devices and services we’re building is build the types of capabilities into the devices that make it I think even better for customers. I’ll give you two examples. One is on our Echo devices, which you mentioned, we have a very bright light ring on it that when it detects the word “Alexa,” we turn it on with a blue light, and we do that on all of our devices. Compare that to your phones. You don’t know when they’re waking up. They may be in your pocket. Well, the Alexa—the Echo device may be in another room and is highly sensitized and can— But for that we built a feature that you can turn on an audible beep so that if a customer wants to do that, they can turn that on so you can hear it as well as see it. So we’re thinking about these issues, and that gives customers comfort, that if a guest comes over and that scenario. On Ring— your example—we built a feature into it that allows the customer to— the camera lens has a certain field of view, and the customer can actually then reduce that field of view. They can say, “Oh, I don’t want to turn on the entire lens. I want to turn it on only at a certain place that’s on my property that doesn’t go to the sidewalk, that doesn’t go to a neighbor’s house,” and by offering that capability, it makes it better for that scenario for customers. And we’re not done inventing. I’m sure we’re going to learn more, but I think compared to many of the other types of devices that are much more pervasive in our society, in your lives, we’re doing a good job inventing. The phone, though, isn’t a surveillance device. I mean, a Ring camera is actually marketed as one, right? It’s a surveillance device that is part of a surveillance network, the Neighbors app. There is a difference between those things. I’m talking about the core functionality. It’s not marketed as a surveillance device. It’s marketed as a device that is meant to make customers’ lives safer. That’s simple as that. Right on the top of Ring, from the very beginning, is their mission is to make neighborhoods safer, and we want to build that sort of ring of security around your household. That can be lighting; that can be cameras; and it also offers delightful moments. But when you asked the question, you didn’t ask just about Ring; you asked about Ring and Echo, and they’re different types of devices, and I wanted to give you examples of the kind of features that we build on all these devices that give the customer the capability to build it in their kind of situation, how they’re living their lives.

6 thoughts on “Amazon Empire: Dave Limp Interview | FRONTLINE

  1. Watch FRONTLINE's 2-hour documentary, "Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos," here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVVfJVj5z8s

  2. Gimme a break.
    There is crime in America that's the primary reason why people want security cameras.. It's just reality.. No need to pretend otherwise..

  3. Cameras are crime stoppers and also a major source of evidence in solving crime. Get use to it, this is a big โ€˜nothing burgerโ€™. This whole doc is a waste of time. Amazon wins.

  4. 6:00 'Our job is to build the tech to account for that'. Ok, then allow people to opt IN to what they choose. Not be opted in by default, and then need to figure out how to opt out.

  5. 8:30 "It isn't marketed as a surveillance device. It's marketed as a device to keep customers safer." The interviewer should have been fast enough to reply, 'And how does it do that?'. I know not everyone thinks fast on their feet, but Frontline, you need to have people who are quick enough to call people on things like this. (I'm available, btw.) These people are trained and skilled at outsmarting questions like these. You need to be faster than they are, else they'll waltz right around you.

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