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.
At the end of each summer for the last 14 years, the small Welsh town of Porthcawl has been invaded. Every year its 16,000 population is swamped by up to 35,000 Elvis fans. Many people attending the yearly festival look the same: they slick back their hair, throw on oversized sunglasses and don white flares. At 2017's Elvis festival, impersonators were faced with something different. Police were trialling automated facial recognition technology to track down criminals.
If you're reading this in the United States, there's a 50 percent chance that a photo of your face is in at least one database used in police facial-recognition systems. Police departments in nearly half of U.S. states can use facial-recognition software to compare surveillance images with databases of ID photos or mugshots. Some departments only use facial-recognition to confirm the identity of a suspect who's been detained; others continuously analyze footage from surveillance cameras to determine exactly who is walking by at any particular moment. Altogether, more than 117 million American adults are subject to face-scanning systems. These findings were published Tuesday in a report from Georgetown Law's Center for Privacy and Technology.
OSAKA – Despite advances in facial recognition technology, the police in Osaka still rely on pure skill to find fugitives, with investigators using only their memory to arrest dozens of wanted criminals every year. While other police forces in the world have "super recognizer" units that hunt down fugitives, the so-called miatari (look and hit) technique used in Osaka has contributed to the arrests of over 4,000 criminals in Japan since the Osaka Prefectural Police introduced it as a formal investigative method in November 1978. There has not been a single wrongful arrest. "The best part of this method is being able to detect fugitives who are hard to find in normal investigations," said a senior investigator in Osaka. He says a forensic analysis is an imperative part of criminal investigations, but "we want to pass on the tradition because our job is to make sure no one gets away with a crime."
The facial recognition software used by London's Metropolitan Police is producing a 98 per cent false positive rate. This means the system is regularly getting it wrong, with only two out of every 100 'matches' pinpointing the correct person. Despite this success rate, London's police commissioner Cressida Dick says she is'completely comfortable' to continue using the system in the capital. So far, the programme has resulted in only two accurate identifications – and neither pinpointed a wanted criminal. One was an individual from an out-of-date watch list, while the other was a person with a mental condition who regularly contacts public figures, but is not wanted for arrest.