ACLU: Amazon shouldn't sell face-recognition tech to police


Adopting a glass half-empty view in contrast the ACLU warns that the software guide reads like a "manual for authoritarian surveillance", warning that officers in OR now have access to a database of 300,000 mugshots - enabling them to cross reference people's faces for criminal records via their mobile phones. But also, it basically means always-on surveillance, as more images are captured with more cameras, and databases build exponentially.

Rather than restrict government use of Rekognition, Amazon is helping governments deploy it on both coasts, according to documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states. The city's police chief has praised the arrangement as a "first of its kind public-private partnership".

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

"Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image", the ACLU said in a statement.

The concern is that this facial recognition surveillance system will violate people's rights and target communities of color. Rekognition face surveillance is now operating across Orlando in real-time, according to Amazon, allowing the company to search for "people of interest" as footage rolls in from "cameras all over the city". ICE could seek to continuously monitor immigrants as they embark on new lives. The ACLU also warns of immigration officials abusing this to track newcomers (legal and otherwise), while cities could "routinely" surveil residents regardless of their crimes.

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Beyond its claim that facial recognition threatens freedom, particularly among minority communities, the ACLU contends that facial recognition algorithms are prone to bias. "When we find that AWS services are being abused by a customer, we suspend that customer's right to use our services", the spokesperson said.

Amazon Rekognition was introduced in the year 2016 as a deep learning-based API that can identify "objects, people, text, scenes, and activities" upon providing a photo or video.

Chris Adzima, the office's senior information systems analyst, told conference attendees how he uploaded around 300,000 mugshot images into the S3 cloud and indexed them with Rekognition.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others, said the retail giant's Rekognition software guide "read like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance". "Imagine if customers couldn't buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?" the spokeswoman said. While some of the uses Amazon promoted for the product were merely voyeuristic - such as automatically detecting celebrities at the royal wedding - numerous use cases seemed specifically tailored for law enforcement.

The statement also says the department "is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time". They could even involve building Rekognition software into the body cameras that police allegedly wear to increase transparency and public accountability (even though the cameras tend to mysteriously malfunction at inopportune moments). "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".