Monday, 25 June, 2018

Amazon draws fire for selling face recognition to law enforcement

Amazon's Facial Recognition Tool Image Amazon
Doris Mccormick | 23 May, 2018, 20:41

The North Carolina Civil Liberties Union has obtained documents that show Amazon has been almost giving away facial recognition tools to police departments in OR and Orlando in an effort to essentially beta test the tools, which live in the cloud via Amazon Web Services.

The Orlando Police Department is working with Amazon to test a high-tech facial-recogition system, according to records made public Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It's about recognising people, it's about tracking people, and then it's about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers. can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening", he said.

"In this political climate, to be clear, it's not a stretch of the imagination to see this being a tool used to round up immigrants, to target activists, and to surveil entire communities", ACLU of OR executive director David Rogers said.

The Washington Post reached out to the county's public information officer, Deputy Jeff Talbot, in the wake of the report.

The company has developed a powerful and unsafe new facial recognition system and is actively helping governments deploy it. Amazon calls the service "Rekognition".

Amazon's response is clear: if a client is using Rekognition in an unlawful or irresponsible manner, it will put a stop to it. "At this time in the pilot, as it is still very early on in this process, we have no data that supports or does not support that the Rekognition technology works". Amazon Rekognition is a technology that helps automate recognizing people, objects, and activities in video and photos based on inputs provided by the customer. 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.

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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. "All use of the testing and this pilot is being done and operated in accordance with current and applicable law". "Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology", it said in a statement.

According to the ACLU, some law enforcement agencies in California have shown interest in recognition technology.

The new service can identify, track and analyze people in real time, recognizing up to 100 people in a single image.

The documents have also revealed that Amazon has offered to connect Washington County Police with Amazon's other government customers interested in using Rekognition and a body camera manufacturer. 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.

Orlando has since deployed Rekognition to search for people in footage drawn from the city's video surveillance cameras, according to Amazon.

Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay area office, one of the groups that signed the letter, said that many people who are booked into jail are not always charged with a crime or are proved innocent. Now Amazon is offering police something similar for a fraction. "They have cameras all over the city".

Generally, the technology can't be stopped and the total surveillance is imminent.

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