ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

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The ACLU documents show how Amazon worked with the city of Orlando, Florida, and the sheriff's department in Washington county, Oregon, to implement the technology.

Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon overtake fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people.

The researchers said that widespread use of facial recognition risks eroding constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches. "They have cameras all over the city". It can be used for security, such as to sound an alarm when a known shoplifter enters a shop. British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify celebrities at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend. That same year in the United States, it was used to identify and arrest a man sought for alleged involvement in two armed robberies. NY police, for instance, have already been caught filming protesters as an intimidation tactic - Rekognition could automate that process by flagging people who routinely show up at protests, no matter how innocent they are.

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", said the letter to Bezos. 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.

The system makes use of Amazon's cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Amazon said in an emailed statement that it requires customers comply with the law, and if it learns that its services are being "abused by a customer", it suspends that customer's use of its technology.

What's more, it said, these technologies would be disproportionately aimed at minority communities.

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"This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces", Garvie said.

"Police would be able to determine who attends protests". The ACLU asked the two police departments for details of any public consultations held before the system was rolled out and about any safeguards in place to prevent abuse, but the details were sketchy - in part because one of them had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Amazon. In what Orlando' police chief called a "first-of-its-kind public-private partnership" Amazon has also been offering free consultancy in its deployment and use. "We are not mass-collecting".

According to The Washington Post, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns Amazon, the Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR pays Amazon an amount between $6 and 12 every month to access the technology. "We want our local community to be aware of what we're doing, how we're using it to solve crimes - what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not".

But rather than worry about all that, the ACLU singled out AWS's Rekognition for the rights-violating potential of the tech, and for Amazon's encouragement of such uses.

The City of Orlando Police Department has also used Rekognition, according to Amazon's website.

Rekognition Image, according to Amazon, allows the building of applications to search, verify and organize millions of images. "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".

The Associated Press reported that the City of Orlando refused an interview request, but issued a statement regarding the use of Rekognition software.