Amazon under fire for selling real-time face-recognition technology to police

'Recipe for authoritarianism': Amazon under fire for selling face-recognition software to police

'Recipe for authoritarianism': Amazon under fire for selling face-recognition software to police

In the USA, there are no laws that bar law enforcement from using real-time facial recognition, but the technology - and the use of artificial intelligence for surveillance purposes - remains controversial.

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

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government". Researchers at Georgetown University estimate there are more than 130 million American adults in criminal facial recognition databases in the U.S. Law enforcement there has apparently fed more than 300,000 mugshot photos into a database, and Rekognition can sift through that to compare images of people obtained from police stops or surveillance footage.

In a statement, Amazon Web Services said, "Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology".

She said that the technology has many useful purposes, and that customers have used it to find abducted people and amusement parks have used the program to find lost children.

The Orlando Police Department said in an email to the AP that the department "is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time".

The department declined an interview, but a sheriff's office in OR is already using the technology to solve crimes. They could even involve building Rekognition software into the body cameras that police allegedly wear to increase transparency and public accountability (even though the cameras tend to mysteriously malfunction at inopportune moments). Law enforcement in California and Arizona have already shown an interest in using the technology - and it is hard to imagine that Bezos would heed the ACLU's warnings.




"They have cameras all over the city", he said.

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.

The ACLU and other civil-liberties groups sent a letter Tuesday, addressed to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, asking the company to stop marketing Rekognition to law enforcement.

The ACLU filed public records requests for Amazon's communications with Orlando and another Rekognition customer, the Washington County Sheriff's Office, near Portland, Ore.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office says it does not use Rekognition in real time and doesn't intend to.

This is exactly what the Washington County Sheriff in OR did. A year later, deputies were using it about 20 times a day to, for example, identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage, the ACLU said. Public records obtained by the ACLU show that the Washington County Sheriff's Office became a Rekognition customer in June 2017.

"When powerful surveillance technologies are deployed it is hard and often impossible to undo the harms once those technologies are deployed in communities". "Partnering with innovative companies-like Amazon-to test new technology is one of those innovative ways and how we will continue to ensure we offer the best in tools, training, and technology for the men and women who serve our community to do the best job they can, with the best resources available". It allows to link already-present technology, as CCTV cam networks to the recognition cloud software.

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