Amazon provides low-cost automated facial recognition to US police


In May 2018, the ACLU of Northern California obtained documents under a FOIA request showing that Amazon was essentially giving away its two-year-old Rekognition facial recognition tools to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando, Florida. Amazon defended the move by saying the technology has many useful purposes, including finding abducted children and identify attendees at the 2018 wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The company markets Rekognition as useful for recognising celebrities in videos or identifying suggestive or explicit content on dating apps. However, the sheriff's office of Washington County, OR, pays Amazon between $6 and $12 a month so it can use Rekognition to scan its database of 300,000 mug shots of suspected criminals in real time against footage of potential suspects. The county noted that the programme was not secret, and that jail booking photos are already public; the software merely speeds up scanning. The county also said its officers are trained not to rely exclusively on the software to make decisions, as it's not always accurate. In response to the discovery, a large group of civil society organisations, including EFF, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Jeff Bezos calling on him to cease contributing to government surveillance. Competitors to Rekognition include Microsoft's Facial Recognition API and numerous start-ups.

Writer: Elizabeth Dwoskin
Publication: Washington Post

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