In a previously undocumented use of facial recognition software, police in Washington state are using Amazon's'Rekognition' to track down criminals with as little as an artist's sketch. According to a report from The Washington Post, police in Washington County are able to compare pictures of suspects harvested from security cameras and eye-witness' cell phone pictures against databases containing 300,000 mugshots of known criminals. In just Washington County Police Department alone, the report states more than 1,000 facial scans were logged last year which have helped identify subjects, sometimes leading officers to home arrests. Amazon's facial recognition software is being used to process criminal sketches in an unprecedented deployment of the technology in law enforcement. While law enforcement say the software has been a critical tool in expediting investigations and tracking down otherwise elusive criminals, skeptics say the use of facial recognition opens up a proverbial Pandora's Box of mass surveillance that could lead to more false identifications.
Amazon will continue to sell its controversial facial recognition software to law enforcement and other entities after its shareholders shot down a proposal to reel the technology in. The vote effectively kills two initiatives brought before Amazon's board. One proposal would have required board approval to sell the software to governments, with approval only being given if the client meets certain standards of civil liberties. Another proposal called for a study on the technology's implications on rights and privacy. The exact breakdown of the vote is unclear and according to an Amazon representative it will only be made available via SEC filings later this week.
Police departments across the nation are generating leads and making arrests by feeding celebrity photos, CGI renderings, and manipulated images into facial recognition software. Often unbeknownst to the public, law enforcement is identifying suspects based on "all manner of'probe photos,' photos of unknown individuals submitted for search against a police or driver license database," a study published on Thursday by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology reported. The new research comes on the heels of a landmark privacy vote on Tuesday in San Francisco, which is now the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and government agencies. A recent groundswell of opposition has led to the passage of legislation that aims to protect marginalized communities from spy technology. These systems "threaten to fundamentally change the nature of our public spaces," said Clare Garvie, author of the study and senior associate at the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology.
Amazon is drawing the ire of its shareholders after an investigation found that it has been marketing powerful facial recognition tools to police. Nearly 20 groups of Amazon shareholders delivered a signed letter to CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday, pressuring the company to stop selling the software to law enforcement. The tool, called'Rekognition', was first released in 2016, but has since been selling it on the cheap to several police departments around the country, with Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon and the city of Orlando, Florida among its customers. Shareholders, including the Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, join the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other privacy advocates in pointing out privacy violations and the dangers of mass surveillance. 'We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,' the shareholders write.
Amazon is drawing the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other privacy advocates after an investigation found that it has been marketing powerful facial recognition tools to police. The tool, called'Rekognition', was first released in 2016, but has since been selling it on the cheap to several police departments around the country, listing the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon and the city of Orlando, Florida among its customers. The ACLU and other organizations are now calling on Amazon to stop marketing the product to law enforcement, saying they could use the technology to'easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone'. Police appear to be using Rekognition to check photographs of unidentified suspects against a database of mug shots from the county jail. But privacy advocates have been concerned about expanding the use of facial recognition to body cameras worn by officers or safety and traffic cameras that monitor public areas, allowing police to identify and track people in real time.