Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. The ACLU released a report on Thursday revealing that Rekognition, Amazon's facial recognition tool, had falsely matched 28 members of Congress to mug shots. Members of the ACLU purchased the version of Rekognition that Amazon offers to the general public and ran public photos of every member of the House and Senate against a database of 25,000 arrest photos. The entire experiment costed $12.33, which, as ACLU attorney Jake Snow writes in a blogpost, is "less than a large pizza." Almost 40 percent of the representatives that Rekognition falsely matched were people of color, even though they make up only 20 percent of Congress.
Amazon's face surveillance technology is the target of growing opposition nationwide, and today, there are 28 more causes for concern. In a test the ACLU recently conducted of the facial recognition tool, called "Rekognition," the software incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress, identifying them as other people who have been arrested for a crime. The members of Congress who were falsely matched with the mugshot database we used in the test include Republicans and Democrats, men and women, and legislators of all ages, from all across the country. Our test used AmazonRekognition to compare images of members of Congress with a database of mugshots. The results included 28 incorrect matches.
Dr. Brad Duchaine, Associate Professor Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth, says facial recognition is a sophisticated, yet universal skill humans have. "It's really a complicated system and it involves a number of different grey areas (but) visual recognition is something everybody is really good at," Duchaine said. "It comes built-in with the brain. We're capable of doing face processing just minutes after being born." Balas, who has done research on how social interactions can influence face perception and memory, said it's amazing the type of information humans can draw from a quick glance of someone's face.
Facial recognition is increasingly used as way to access your money and your devices. When it comes to policing, it could soon mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment. Faces can be scanned at a distance, generating a code as unique as your fingerprints. This is created by measuring the distance between various points, like the width of a person's nose, distance between the eyes and length of the jawline. Facial recognition systems check more than 80 points of comparison, known as'nodal points', combining them to build a person's faceprint.