ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

'Rekognition marketing materials read like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance, ' said Nicole Ozer of the ACLU of California.

This information was uncovered by the ACLU, which noticed that law enforcement customers were mentioned in the marketing of Amazon's "Rekognition" service.

Amazon said in an emailed statement that it requires customers comply with the law, and if it learns that its services are being "abused by a customer", it suspends that customer's use of its technology. In November 2016, it launched Amazon Rekognition, an easy-to-use facial recognition service available to customers of Amazon Web Services.

"Police would be able to determine who attends protests".

According to The Washington Post, law enforcement officials now utilizing this technology aren't breaking the bank to access it.

"They have cameras all over the city", said Ranju Das, the director of Rekognition of Orlando, Florida. Washington County built a smartphone that allows deputies to scan mugshots through a database of 300,000 faces for matches, which it used to identify and arrest a suspect who stole more than $5,000 from local stores.

But the technology is fallible. As a technology, Amazon Rekognition has many useful applications in the real world (e.g., various agencies have used Rekognition to find abducted people, amusement parks use Rekognition to find lost children, the royal wedding that just occurred this past weekend used Rekognition to identify wedding attendees, etc.).


The software can recognize up to 100 people in a single image, using a private repository of images. Such broad capabilities, when coupled with balky technology, could lead to the wrong people being targeted during investigations.

Government use of facial-recognition software has raised concerns among civil rights groups that maintain it can be used to quiet dissent and target groups such as undocumented immigrants and black rights activists. Researchers at Georgetown University estimate there are more than 130 million American adults in criminal facial recognition databases in the U.S. And if public agencies are unwilling to discuss these programs with the public, they're far less likely to create internal policies governing use of the tech. Additionally, Rekognition has access to only eight city-owned cameras. "Rekognition Video detects persons even when the camera is in motion and, for each person, returns a bounding box and the face, along with face attributes and timestamps. So if they don't find the right person, they provide a list of the wrong people - and that will happen more with African-Americans". "Amazon shouldn't be anywhere near it, and if we have anything to say about it, they will not be".

However, the question can boil over into civil rights areas when, for example, images of a citizen being booked for suspicion of a crime are retained by law enforcement, despite their innocence.

A spokesperson for the Orlando Police Department said for the pilot program, the department is not using images of the public.

Facial recognition is a powerful tool, but will it ever be possible to utilize in an effective manner that doesn't get people worked up over privacy concerns?

Some might also do well to direct their attention to decent reasons to be paranoid (mainly, police).

A quote from Orlando police Chief John Mina is featured on Amazon's "customers" page for Rekognition, in which he says the city is "excited to work with Amazon to pilot the latest in public safety software".

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