ACLU Says Amazon Facial Recognition Technology May Be Abused

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos laughs as he talks to the media while touring the new Amazon Spheres during the grand opening at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle Washington U.S

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos laughs as he talks to the media while touring the new Amazon Spheres during the grand opening at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle Washington U.S

After Google, which is facing criticism for working with the USA army, now Amazon is under fire for selling face-recognition technology to police in the US. "Because the service is so new, we are reaching out to customers to make sure they get all the support they need to succeed with their particular use case". "Imagine if customers couldn't buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?" Its uses go from the well-meaning (identification of lost children in amusement parks) to the benign (identifying guests at the royal wedding), but unsurprisingly its use in police surveillance isn't something that appears prominently in customer-facing marketing literature - though it is in there.

Civil-rights groups are crying foul while citing concerns about the potential misuse of such a tool, which can be utilized on a police officer's body camera. Hundreds of Google employees protested last month to demand that the company stop providing artificial intelligence to the Pentagon to help analyze drone footage. Marketers could use the image recognition software to recognize celebrities in their videos, while owners of dating apps could use the program to identify unwanted suggestive or explicit content, according to the company's website.

"Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely hard to undo", the ACLU said.

Amazon is selling a product that the American Civil Liberties Union is calling too powerful, too unsafe and downright harmful to our society. Amazon sees police use of its tool as "common" and describes the technology as an "easy and accurate way" to monitor public spaces and identify "people of interest".

Though Amazon is best known to consumers for its e-commerce platform, the company also runs a giant cloud computing business. It can identify up to 100 people in a crowd, the documents said.

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The Orlando Police Department confirmed to Spectrum News 13 that it was piloting Amazon's Rekognition software and Amazon's Kinesis Video Streams for real-time video and image analysis. There's no doubt that it has its benefits - whether helping police identify criminals in a crowded city, or making plane boarding more efficient. "Amazon shouldn't be anywhere near it, and if we have anything to say about it, they will not be". On Feb. 1, 2017, a systems analyst in the sheriff's office wrote in an email to Amazon that he or she uploaded about 300,000 photos taken since 2001 to the S3 server, and was eager to add more.

Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the Washington county sheriff's office, defended its use of the technology. "We are not putting a camera out on a street corner", he told the Associated Press."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". "It is not mass surveillance or untargeted surveillance". It said fears over misuse of the technology should not inhibit use of facial recognition to fight crime.

An Amazon executive on Amazon's Web Services page explained how it works.

He compares this technology to license plate readers which have been installed in many Bay Area cities. "As we find them we send the responses through Kinesis' stream, that could then be used to create an SMS notification and sent to pager or law enforcement agent". Users with access to the service can hunt down "people of interest", it's said, in footage sourced from "cameras all over the city".

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