Amazon tried to sell its AI-powered facial recognition technology to the US government to help catch illegal immigrants. It pitched its product to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials this summer, leaked emails show. The emails were first reported by The Daily Beast as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from the advocacy group Project on Government Oversight. Emails revealed the intention of Amazon to use its controversial Rekognition face-scanning technology to help with the country's security. The facial recognition technology has attracted scrutiny since it was revealed Amazon had sold it to several US police departments.
Amazon's facial recognition technology, Rekognition, continues to cause controversy. In documents recently obtained by BuzzFeed News, we now have a behind-the-scenes look at how Orlando police have been using the technology. After the city let the original pilot program expire after public outcry, Orlando started a second pilot program with an "increased" number of face-scanning cameras. Amazon's Rekognition is described broadly as a visual analysis tool. But, deployed by law enforcement, it can scan faces caught on camera and match them against faces in criminal databases.
SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco is on track to become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies, reflecting a growing backlash against a technology that's creeping into airports, motor vehicle departments, stores, stadiums and home security cameras. Government agencies around the U.S. have used the technology for more than a decade to scan databases for suspects and prevent identity fraud. But recent advances in artificial intelligence have created more sophisticated computer vision tools, making it easier for police to pinpoint a missing child or protester in a moving crowd or for retailers to analyze a shopper's facial expressions as they peruse store shelves. Efforts to restrict its use are getting pushback from law enforcement groups and the tech industry, though it's far from a united front. Microsoft, while opposed to an outright ban, has urged lawmakers to set limits on the technology, warning that leaving it unchecked could enable an oppressive dystopia reminiscent of George Orwell's novel "1984."
The accuracy of police facial recognition systems has been criticised by a UK privacy group. Two forces have been testing facial recognition cameras at public events in an effort to catch wanted criminals. Big Brother Watch said its investigation showed the technology was "dangerous and inaccurate" as it had wrongly flagged up a "staggering" number of innocent people as suspects. But police have defended its use and say additional safeguards are in place. Police facial recognition cameras have been trialled at events such as football matches, festivals and parades.
San Francisco supervisors approved a ban on police using facial recognition technology, making it the first city in the U.S. with such a restriction. Amazon shareholders will continue selling the company's facial recognition technology "Rekognition" to governments and law enforcement agencies. During the e-commerce giant's annual meeting Wednesday, shareholders rejected all proposals including two related to Rekognition, Amazon confirmed to USA TODAY. One proposed banning the sales of the technology and the other called for the company to conduct an independent study and issue a report on the risks of governments using the technology. Amazon did not release shareholder vote totals Wednesday but said information would be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission later in the week.