Amazon defends providing police facial recognition tech

23 May, 2018, 18:57 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Facial recognition

According to its marketing materials, Rekognition is being marketed to governments and law enforcement, and documents obtained by the ACLU show it is now used by police in Orlando and Oregon's Washington County.

A coalition of civil rights groups, in a letter released Tuesday, called on Amazon to stop selling the program to law enforcement because it could prop up surveillance of vulnerable communities.

Early a year ago, the company began courting the Washington County Sheriff's Office outside of Portland, Ore., eager to promote how it was using Amazon's service for recognizing faces, emails obtained by the A.C.L.U. show.

But in response to a joint letter sent by the ACLU and 33 other groups, Amazon defended its partnerships with law enforcement agencies. The letter says that the system is "primed for abuse in the hands of governments" and could be used to track protesters instead of catching criminals.

Amazon's statement added, "W$3 e require our customers to comply with the law and be responsible when using Amazon Rekognition".

Beyond its claim that facial recognition threatens freedom, particularly among minority communities, the ACLU contends that facial recognition algorithms are prone to bias.

Amazon contends that it makes no sense to block emerging technologies exclusively on the fear of how they might be misused in future, pointing out that our "quality of life would be much worse" if we failed to capitalise on the potential benefits.

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Amazon has handed new technology that can identify faces in the crowd to law enforcement.

"[Amazon Rekognition] is continually trained on new data to expand its ability to recognize objects, scenes, and activities to improve its ability to accurately recognize", Amazon says.

Nicole Ozer, the ACLU of California's technology and civil liberties director, said in a statement that Amazon's marketing materials for Rekognition "read like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance". In an email to the AP, the Orlando Police Department said they are "not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time". Washington County has taken at least 300,000 mugshots and built a database to use with Rekognition.

It can identify anyone - anywhere - in real time.

Amazon is selling a product that the American Civil Liberties Union is calling too powerful, too risky and downright harmful to our society. Rekognition also provides "highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition". "The authorized cameras are then streaming the data", he said. You may remember a few months ago that China seemed pretty proud of its facial recognition software, which was effectively catching wanted criminals in Zhengzhou. "We are not putting a camera out on a street corner", Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff's office told the AP. In particular, the ACLU is concerned that police would use these tools to target political groups or people who are otherwise vulnerable. AWS GovCloud would still exist even if the pitches to try specific cloud services became less focused on applications with privacy and civil rights implications. Baltimore's police department tracks the cell phone use of residents and films their movements using drones.

Orlando has a network of public safety cameras, and in a presentation posted to YouTube this month, Ranju Das, who leads Amazon Rekognition, said Amazon would receive feeds from the cameras, search them against photos of people being sought by law enforcement, and notify police of any hits.

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