A new report details what privacy experts are calling a dangerous misapplication of facial recognition that uses photos of celebrities and digitally-doctored images to comb for criminals. According to a detailed investigation by Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology, one New York Police Department detective attempted to identify a suspect by scanning the face of actor Woody Harrelson. After footage from a security camera failed to produce results in a facial recognition scan, the detective used Google images of what he concluded to be the suspects celebrity doppelganger -- Woody Harrelson -- to run a test. The system turned up a match, says the report, who was eventually arrested on charges of petit larceny. In a new report from Georgetown University, an investigation shows that police have used celebrities to help its facial recognition software identify suspects.
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.
New details have emerged about how Amazon markets its controversial facial recognition tech, Rekognition, to law enforcement. Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show that the internet giant provided the Orlando Police Department with'tens of thousands of dollars worth of technology' for free. It comes after Orlando decided to renew its Rekognition contract with Amazon in July, after it expired in June. New details have emerged about how Amazon markets its facial recognition tech, Rekognition, to law enforcement. As part of the deal, Amazon has required Orlando to sign a nondisclosure agreement about the pilot, meaning that details about it wouldn't be publicly available.
Despite facial recognition's seal of approval from law enforcement agencies across the U.S., recent experiments show the technology is far from infallible. In a demonstration by the American Civil Liberties Union, about 26 California lawmakers were misidentified by face-matching software built by Amazon, putting the rate of a mismatch at about 1 in 5. The results mimic a similar test done by the advocacy group in 2018 when a test saw Amazon's software, called'Rekognition', mismatch 28 members of congress -- many of whom were people of color. The ACLU says a test of Amazon's facial recognition software misidentified 1 in 5 lawmakers fed into its system Similarly, the software attempted to match their head shots against a database of known criminals -- a process that has become commonplace for the at least 200 departments across the U.S. who use Rekognition software. According to the LA Times, the test is fueling calls from California legislators to limit the technology's application in a law enforcement capacity, including its integration with police body cameras.
Amazon has defended giving its Big Brother-style facial recognition tool to police following an outcry from civil rights groups. The response comes just hours after it emerged Amazon's facial recognition tool, dubbed'Rekognition', is being used by law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Florida. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warns Rekognition could be misused to identify and track innocent people in real-time. It claims the software guide for the AI'reads like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance'. But Amazon said'quality of life would be much worse' if technologies such as this were blocked because of fears they may be misused.