Amazon joins Microsoft's call to regularise facial recognition technology

Amazon Supports Facial Recognition Legislation

Amazon Supports Facial Recognition Legislation Inc on Thursday joined the call for transparency in the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies, and said it supports an "appropriate" legislative framework on the technology to protect civil rights.

Why it matters: With Amazon's facial recognition software seemingly under constant fire, Amazon Web Services Vice President Michael Punke took to the internet to outline his thoughts on guidelines legislators should consider when dealing with such systems.

Why it matters: Amazon is playing defense as civil rights activists and lawmakers sound the alarm over facial recognition technology. The technology shouldn't be used to make fully automated and final decisions when used in law enforcement, he said, and should instead require a human to review the results. Oddly (or maybe not so much), his ideas have less to do with the regulation of Rekognition and more to do with micromanaging law enforcement.

"There is no legal mechanism to stop misuse of facial recognition technology in India", Pavan Duggal, one of the nation's top cyber law experts, told IANS, adding that the Information Technology Act does not specially deal with misuse of this technology. "We encourage policymakers to consider these guidelines as potential legislation and rules are considered in the U.S. and other countries", he said. Punke writes that facial recognition matches should not be the sole determinant for making arrests or identifying persons of interest in a criminal investigation.

"You may have read about some of the tests of Amazon Rekognition by outside groups attempting to show how the service could be used to discriminate".

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The bottom line of Punke's message is that he feels calls for banning Rekognition or any technology are misguided.

It is being widely conjectured that Amazon has recorded/is recording these five-second long video snippets as a part of measures to clamp down upon fake sellers and sellers of counterfeit goods. The American Civil Liberties Union claims the tech giant has been vague about the technology's development.

As criticism over its facial recognition system Rekognition has grown among lawmakers and consumers alike, Amazon has come out in favor of legislating the technology and has even proposed guidelines on how to do so. From the ACLU condemning it for misidentifying members of Congress as criminals to its own employees penning a letter to company heads demanding they stop selling it to law enforcement, the facial recognition system has been controversial almost from its inception.

Speaking to ZDNet's sister site CNET, ACLU senior legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani suggested the five proposals don't go far enough to protect civil liberties.

"Although I appreciate the progress in ethical thinking around the use and legislation of their products, the ongoing denial of corporate responsibility by Amazon is incredibly disappointing", said Deborah Raji, a researcher at the University of Toronto.

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