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

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

Image-recognition software that Amazon developed for its cloud platform is being sold to police departments around the U.S., according to documents disclosed by the American Civil Liberties Union today.

Emails obtained by the ACLU through freedom of information requests show that the company worked with the city of Orlando, Florida and the Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR to deploy Rekognition, an AI facial recognition platform that can parse databases of millions of people.

According to the ACLU, the Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR and the city of Orlando, Florida are current customers using Amazons' Rekognition software.

"Today, the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights organizations demanded that Amazon stop allowing governments to use Rekognition".

"Amazon Rekognition is primed for abuse in the hands of governments", the letter said.

But Amazon pushed back in an emailed statement about the program, saying that it had "many useful applications in the real world" and that the firm "requires that customers comply with the law and be responsible when they use" its products.

Beyond its claim that facial recognition threatens freedom, particularly among minority communities, the ACLU contends that facial recognition algorithms are prone to bias.

Skynews just used Amazon's facial recognition technology to identify guests at the royal wedding. 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. The documents provided showed how Amazon provided product support and offered free consulting services to the government.

Amazon is teaming up with law enforcement agencies to deploy its new facial recognition technology.

Orlando, Florida, agencies may also be joining the growing number of companies and agencies to use the software to "use existing city resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interest, further increasing public safety", according to the Associated Press story. In fact, at last year's re:Invent conference, the company highlighted its partnership with the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon.

He said the program could identify potential suspects in real time, making it easier for law enforcement to act quickly in apprehending them.

"Amazon's Rekognition raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns", the ACLU said.

Older versions of the Amazon Rekognition website advertised the service as a tool that law enforcement agencies could use to identify persons of interest by feeding police body cam footage into the Rekognition API.

The Washington Post reached out to the county's public information officer, Deputy Jeff Talbot, in the wake of the report.

"And so we're very concerned that Amazon appears to be rushing into this surveillance market with and with no meaningful restrictions to limit how governments can use this and local governments themselves and local law enforcement are not adopting their own restrictions".

That could have potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally or political protesters, they said.

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", said the letter to Bezos. You may remember a few months ago that China seemed pretty proud of its facial recognition software, which was effectively catching wanted criminals in Zhengzhou.

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