An image from the product page of Amazon's Rekognition service, which provides image and video facial and item recognition and analysis. SAN FRANCISCO – Two years ago, Amazon built a facial and image recognition product that allows customers to cheaply and quickly search a database of images and look for matches. One of the groups it targeted as potential users of this service was law enforcement. At least two signed on: the Washington County Sheriff's Office outside of Portland, Ore., and the Orlando Police Department in Florida. Now the ACLU and civil rights groups are demanding that Amazon stop selling the software tool, called Rekognition, to police and other government entities because they fear it could be used to unfairly target protesters, immigrants and any person just going about their daily business.
Why the American Civil Liberties Union is calling out Amazon's facial recognition tool, and what the ACLU found when it compared photos of members of Congress to public arrest photos. A group of Amazon shareholders is pushing the tech giant to stop selling its controversial facial recognition technology to U.S. government agencies, just days after a coalition of 85 human rights, faith, and racial justice groups demanded in an open letter that Jeff Bezos' company stop marketing surveillance technology to the feds. Over the last year, the "Rekognition" technology, which has been reportedly marketed to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has come under fire from immigrants' rights groups and privacy advocates who argue that it can be misused and ultimately lead to racially biased outcomes. A test of the technology by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showed that 28 members of Congress, mostly people of color, were incorrectly identified as police suspects. According to media reports and the ACLU, Amazon has already sold or marketed "Rekognition" to law enforcement agencies in three states.
When is it appropriate for police to conduct a face recognition search? To figure out who's who in a crowd of protesters? To monitor foot traffic in a high-crime neighborhood? To confirm the identity of a suspect -- or a witness -- caught on tape? According to a new report by Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy & Technology, these are questions very few police departments asked before widely deploying face recognition systems.
Amazon's Rekognition facial surveillance technology has wrongly tagged 28 members of Congress as police suspects, the ACLU says. Amazon's Rekognition facial surveillance technology has wrongly tagged 28 members of Congress as police suspects, according to ACLU research, which notes that nearly 40 percent of the lawmakers identified by the system are people of color. In a blog post, Jacob Snow, technology and civil liberties attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, said that the false matches were made against a mugshot database. The matches were also disproportionately people of color, he said. These include six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among them civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
Amazon.com's facial recognition tools incorrectly identified Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and 27 other members of Congress as people arrested for a crime during a test commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the watchdog said Thursday. The ACLU said its findings show that Amazon's so-called Rekognition technology -- already in use at law-enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando -- is hampered by inaccuracies that disproportionately put people of color at risk and should prompt regulators to halt "law enforcement use of face surveillance." Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post. For its test, the ACLU of Northern California created a database of 25,000 publicly available arrest photos, though the civil liberties watchdog did not give details about where it obtained the images or the kinds of individuals in the photos. It then used Amazon's Rekognition software to compare that database against photos of every member of the U.S. House and Senate.