Amazon helps law enforcement with facial recognition technology

Amazon helps law enforcement with facial recognition technology

In November 2016, it launched Amazon Rekognition, an easy-to-use facial recognition service available to customers of Amazon Web Services. The ACLU cited this presentation in which an Amazon executive said Orlando officials "have cameras all over the city" that submit images that Rekognition analyzes in real time to track "persons of interest". In particular, the ACLU is concerned that police would use these tools to target political groups or people who are otherwise vulnerable.

Do you think it's okay for a police force to use facial recognition technology on people without their consent?

The emails also discussed the integration of this technology with body cameras used by police.

Orlando is part of a public-private partnership with Amazon.

In the aftermath of the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, over the killing of Michael Brown, police departments and policy makers around the country hit upon a supposed panacea to racist policing and police brutality: body-worn cameras. Hundreds of Google employees protested last month to demand that the company stop providing artificial intelligence to the Pentagon to help analyse drone footage.

Talbot said the Washington County Sheriff's Office has no plans to stop use of the Rekognition software, despite the ACLU's calls for the technology to be shelved. "Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely hard to undo".

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others, said the retail giant's Rekognition software guide "read like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance".

While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement - more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there.

A 2016 study by Georgetown University researchers found that one in two USA adults, or 117 million people, appeared in a law enforcement facial recognition database, with most of those undisclosed and unregulated. It often does not properly identify darker-skinned people. A spokesperson for the county told The Washington Post that it pays Amazon between $6 and $12 a month for Rekognition.

Oregon's Washington County Sheriff's Office has been using the new technology for a year.

The system is powerful and can apparently pull faces from real-time footage to compare to databases. "Our goal is to inform the public about the work we're doing to solve crimes. It is not mass surveillance or untargeted surveillance".

It did not say whether the system has been used that way in the past, or will be in the future. For the cheap price Amazon was offering, he said it made sense to test out the service. In its marketing materials, Amazon boasts the software can recognize as many as 100 people at a time. Orlando police are testing it out on city cameras. The letter, signed by a coalition of organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch, expressed worries about Amazon encouraging law enforcement to use the technology to monitor "people of interest", which could include undocumented immigrants and activists.

Research from Joy Buolamwini of M.I.T. Media Lab found that three AI-powered facial recognition systems - Microsoft, IBM, and Face++ - identified men more accurately than women and performed better on lighter-skinned faces than those with dark skin despite having fairly high accuracy overall. To date, facial recognition software has managed to generate high numbers of false positives, while only producing a handful of valid arrests. Such technology has been touted as a way to prevent shoplifting.

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