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.
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 says its increasingly popular facial recognition software has learned a few new tricks, including the ability to discern when someone is scared. The software, called'Rekognition', has added'fear' to its list of detectable emotions which already includes'Happy', 'Sad', 'Angry', 'Surprised', 'Disgusted', 'Calm' and'Confused,' said Amazon in an announcement earlier this week. In addition to its emotion capabilities, Amazon says its has also improved Rekognition's ability to identify gender and age more accurately. Amazon's facial recognition software can now detect'fear' and better glean age and gender according to an announcement by the company. The improved age features offer smaller age ranges across the spectrum and also more accurate range predictions, said the company.
Privacy advocates used Amazon's facial recognition to scan thousands of random faces around Capitol Hill in Washington DC to highlight the dangers of this technologies surveillance capabilities. While walking around, the team found the facial recognition successfully identified a congressman, but also claimed to spot Roy Orbison – an American singer who died in 1988. The demonstration was a message to Congress to ban the technology, there's no law preventing people from scanning your face without your consent anytime you step out in public. A small group of activists walked outside and inside Capitol Hill wearing hazmat suits and smartphones strapped to their heads on Thursday to protest the use of facial recognition on the public without consent. Using Rekognition, Amazon's commercially available facial recognition software, the activists scanned nearly 14,000 faces that they cross-checked with a database to see if anyone could be identified.
California lawmakers have passed a bill that bans law enforcement from using facial recognition technology gathered by body cameras – in a bid to end privacy abuse. The bill, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, will go into effect in 2020 and last for three years. The motion also prohibits cops from using biometric surveillance including other forms of identification that can be capture from body camera videos. California lawmakers have passed a bill that bans law enforcement from using facial recognition technology gathered by body cameras – in a bid to end privacy abuse. The bill is first of its kind in the US and recognizes that'the use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance is the functional equivalent of requiring every person to show a personal photo identification card at all times in violation of recognized constitutional rights.