Amazon's Facial 'Rekognition' Tool Used By Cops Is Cheaper Than Netflix

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

Amazon has a real-time facial-recognition program, and Orlando Police are giving it a try. Amazon deleted mentions of body cams from its site after the ACLU raised the issue. 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. Rekognition is powerful enough to track faces in crowded scenes, and could theoretically be used to locate activists and dissidents. The company has a policy to use the technology only to identify a suspect in a criminal investigation, he said, and has no plans to use it with footage from body cameras or real-time surveillance systems.

"Maybe they want to know if the mayor of the city is in a place, or there are persons of interest they want to track". The letter claims that the technology is "primed for abuse" in government hands and poses a "grave threat" to communities which are already unfairly targeted by law enforcement.

It's not certain if Amazon will formally address the objections.

The tech giant's entry into the market could vastly accelerate such developments, the privacy advocates fear, with potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally, or political protesters.

The county, which has uploaded more than 300,000 mugshots to Amazon's cloud, has used the facial recognition tools about 20 times per day, according to internal emails.

The ACLU and more than two dozen other civil rights organizations called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to stop selling face-recognition services to government agencies.

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"When powerful surveillance technologies are deployed it is hard and often impossible to undo the harms once those technologies are deployed in communities".

However, the ACLU says Amazon's Rekognition raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns.

The debate over the implantation of facial recognition software is happening all over the world.

In China, authorities have created a digital surveillance system able to use a variety of biometric data - from photos and iris scans to fingerprints - to keep close tabs on the movements of the entire population, and uses it to publicly identify lawbreakers and jaywalkers. "Imagine if customers couldn't buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?"

Existing customers include the city of Orlando and the Washington Country Sheriff's Office in OR, which has built a database of 300,000 mugshot photos to use with Rekognition. "We analyze the video in real time [and] search against the collection of faces they have". The Orlando Police department also told the publication that it hadn't deployed Rekognition for surveillance, and that it was only testing the service.

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. The marketing of Rekognition to law enforcement is still in its infancy, but he's anxious it could quickly become dominant, given Amazon's market clout as the world's leading cloud services company. The documents [PDF] obtained by the ACLU show Amazon has been congratulated by local law enforcement officials for a "first-of-its-kind public-private partnership", thanks to its deployment efforts.

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