Medicine

ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

Banks of television monitors display a fraction of London's CCTV camera network in the Metropolitan Police's new Special Operations Room on April 20, 2007 in London, England.

Rekognition's ability to identify individuals through photos and video in real-time makes it a powerful tool for tracking people. As NPR reported two weeks ago, American police have generally held off, but there's new evidence that one police department - Orlando, Fla. - has made a decision to try it out. More than 130 million Americans, many of whom have never committed a crime, are in state and federal facial recognition databases, according to the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law.

The ACLU investigation found that Amazon has not been content to simply market and sell Rekognition to law enforcement agencies-it is also offering "company resources to help government agencies deploy" the tool. If police body cameras, for example, were outfitted with facial recognition, devices intended for officer transparency and accountability would further transform into surveillance machines aimed at the public. But that is just a part of the services that Amazon has been providing to the county police in Washington.

But in a presentation this month in Korea one A.W.S. executive said that Rekognition could be used in Orlando to locate the city's mayor in real-time through surveillance cameras. "Amazon shouldn't be anywhere near it, and if we have anything to say about it, they will not be". "We analyze the video in real time, search against the collection of faces that they have". The organization is anxious about the concept of "secret surveillance", a term used to describe governments that monitor citizens at all times under the guise of looking for "persons of interest".

Amazon is selling facial recognition technology to police across the US.

Amazon has been marketing Rekognition for government surveillance purposes, boasting that the technology provides an "easy and accurate" way to monitor people and that it can be used to identify "people of interest" to law enforcement.

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". NPR tried to follow up, but OPD said it wasn't doing interviews on the topic. "They have cameras all over the city".

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"Unlike anything else, it handles real-time video", Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy said in a video published November 30, 2017.

Amazon also wouldn't do an interview with NPR.

Because of Rekognition's capacity for abuse, we asked Washington County and Orlando for any records showing that their communities had been provided an opportunity to discuss the service before its acquisition. Rekognition, the company said, "has many useful applications", such as finding lost children or abducted people.

"Amazon Rekognition is primed for abuse in the hands of governments", the letter said.

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.

The obvious concern is that it will be used by the authorities to keep track of citizens engaged in lawful protests and demonstrations and used to target undesirable elements, however those might be defined, with a consequent chilling effect on democratic rights. "We are not putting a camera out on a street corner", said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. 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.