“I’m all for technology and keeping your castle safe, but geez, can’t a guy just stop by to say hello anymore?”
…I am currently obsessed with—and horrified by—the Neighbors app, a niche but growing social network that’s become a dumping ground for videos captured by Ring cameras. Boston has embraced it with gusto, despite the fact that crime statistics show that we’ve never been safer. The app touts itself as a “new neighborhood watch,” that helps users harness “the power of your community” to keep you “safe and informed.” Police are so confident in Ring’s usefulness that many departments have even partnered with Amazon to promote the product in Massachusetts.
…Local users haven’t just been uploading videos of crimes in action—they’ve been using the app to post just about anything that seems mysterious or untoward. In other words, the app has become a cesspool of paranoia and aggression, where even looking suspicious is grounds for inclusion on the app’s ceaseless stream of updates.
…Delivery drivers and city workers …flagged as potential robbers and scammers. …Two guys dressed in business-casual attire strolling across a driveway—none of whom appears to commit any crimes—and deemed them worthy of inclusion on the app.
…Tensions that often simmer under the surface in Boston—specifically those around race and class—are laid bare in text on the app. People who are poor, non-white, or both are often unfairly labeled by Ring users as ‘dangerous.’
…“A lot of it is really gross., …people posting really just derogatory, heartless, cruel things about these folks who are obviously at a really low place in their lives, struggling with substance abuse and poverty.”
… There are countless examples of the benefits of the Neighbors app, including identifying hit-and-run drivers, helping to find lost pets, or, in one case, providing crucial evidence of a kidnapping underway in Las Vegas. Still, a review of the videos on Boston’s section of the Neighbors app reveals many doorstep moments aren’t even crimes at all. The unintended result, though, is a growing army of Bostonians who have engineered a vast network of private surveillance cameras and unwittingly volunteered their services to broadcast anyone who steps near their front door.