Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union have revealed that police in both Orlando and Oregon's Washington County are subscribed to Rekognition, Amazon's facial recognition system. They also now actively market their artificial intelligence-powered facial recognition software, Rekognition, for use in police surveillance. Its impressive Rekognition technology is the ideal tool for government entities wishing to obliterate the idea of personal privacy.
In a blog post past year, Amazon said a new feature let customers "identify people of interest against a collection of millions of faces in near real-time, enabling use cases such as timely and accurate crime prevention".
"It also built a mobile app for its deputies to quickly scan for a match against the county's database by submitting images obtained from surveillance or other sources", the ACLU said.
"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", said the letter, dated Tuesday. "Particularly in the current political climate, we need to stop supercharged surveillance before it is used to track protesters, target immigrants, and spy on entire neighborhoods". They suspect that the government agencies will deploy Rekognition, which was publicly introduced publicly in November 2016 to detect potentially unsafe content and track people, to track a variety of things including determining people who attended a protest, monitoring immigrants, and tracking people from various minority communities.
What we learned from the records: for far less than the monthly cost of Amazon Prime, a law enforcement agency can build a face surveillance system.
Amazon Web Services did not answer emailed questions about how many law enforcement agencies are using Rekognition, but in a written statement the company said it requires all of its customers to comply with the law and to be responsible in the use of its products.
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The department declined an interview, but a sheriff's office in OR is already using the technology to solve crimes. "The objective of a pilot program such as this is to address any concerns that arise as the new technology is tested", the statement said.
The popularity of Amazon's face recognition technology is growing and California and Arizona have already contacted Washington County Police asking them about Amazon's face-recognition technology.
"It makes them more efficient and better at fighting crime", Deputy Jeff Talbot of the Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR said. The organization is anxious about the concept of "secret surveillance", a term used to describe governments that monitor citizens at all times under the guise of looking for "persons of interest".
"Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely hard to undo", the ACLU said.
In an email, a spokesperson for Amazon also rejected the ACLU's demands, saying that it suspends any customer's right to use services if the company discovers abuse. " Law enforcement agencies in Orlando, Florida, and Washington County have praised the software. Imagine if customers couldn't buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?" the spokeswoman said. Microsoft offers a rival service, called Facial Recognition API. Despite all of this, Amazon imposes no meaningful restrictions on how governments can use Rekognition. Its police force has used the technology to identify suspected shoplifters from security footage, according to RouteFifty.