Amazon draws fire for selling face recognition to law enforcement

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

The ACLU of Northern California is shining more light on the tech this week, however, after announcing that it had obtained documents shedding more light on the service it believes "raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns". The company has already deployed Rekognition-powered services in a number of U.S. states, it's reported, automating the identification of "people of interest" from multiple cameras spread across cities.

Amazon brags that Rekognition's facial database includes tens of millions of faces, though it remains unclear how that came to be the case. Amazon's website openly describes its potential for surveillance.

The enforcement agencies shelled $400 to get the data comprising 305,000 mugshot photos in the API and Amazon charges a meager amount of $6 per month for using it, making it cheaper than Netflix. It also built an app for deputies to use. It has even offered free consulting to agencies expressing an interest in Rekognition.

In an August 2017 report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed that "black identity extremists" concerned with "alleged police brutality" were likely to take up arms against law enforcement. Amazon is looking to capture an underserved market, and the more proactive it is, the more market it will secure before competitors arrive. The organization hopes Bezos reconsiders selling Rekognition to governments.

Amazon contends that it makes no sense to block emerging technologies exclusively on the fear of how they might be misused in future, pointing out that our "quality of life would be much worse" if we failed to capitalise on the potential benefits. The group used public records requests to learn about the service. In addition, Amazon says that footage from a police officer's body-worn camera could also serve as a source for obtaining facial data - video footage would simply be uploaded after the fact or streamed in real-time. This is something body camera manufacturers are already considering, and licensing an established product is far easier than building one from the ground up.

A smart surveillance system (pictured) that can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China.

However, the ACLU is anxious the same technology could facilitate a creepy surveillance state.

'Recipe for authoritarianism': Amazon under fire for selling face-recognition software to police
Amazon defends providing police facial recognition tech

Amazon's facial recognition technology does have the ability to track people in real-time.

These efforts have been deployed with zero input from the largest stakeholder in any government operation: the general public.

A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services (AWS) told The Hill that Rekognition is not a tool for surveillance, saying that it is merely used to match images from pictures or video with those in a database.

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.

It may be the NDAs discourage public discussion, but more likely the agencies acquiring the tech knew the public wouldn't be pleased with having their faces photographed, tracked, stored indefinitely, and compared to pictures stored in law enforcement databases. "That's why we have a policy drafted and why we've tried to educate the public about what we do and don't do".

At a conference in Seoul, Ranju Das, who is listed as the director of Rekognition on his LinkedIn profile, boasted about the capabilities of the panopticon created in the partnership with Orlando.

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If you hadn't been introduced to the possibility of hearing "Yanny" or "Laurel" you may not have heard either of these words. The age of your ears will also affect what you hear, the sounds of "Yanny play at a higher frequency than those of "Laurel".

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