In Washington County, Oregon, sheriff's deputies use a mobile app to send photos of suspects to Amazon's cloud computing service. The e-commerce giant's algorithms check those faces against a database of tens of thousands of mugshots, using Amazon's Rekognition image analysis service. Such use of facial recognition by law enforcement is essentially unregulated. But some developers of the technology want to change that. In a blog post Thursday, Amazon asked Congress to put some rules around the use of the technology, echoing a call by Microsoft in December.
Faced with mounting criticism of its "Rekognition" system, Amazon has come out in favor of legislating facial recognition technology. In a blog post, the company has revealed its "proposed guidelines" for the responsible use of the tech that it hopes policymakers in the US and worldwide will consider when drafting new laws. Amazon's five-step rulebook essentially calls for use of the tech to be governed by current laws, including those that protect civil rights. It also urges human oversight when facial recognition is used by law enforcement and recommends a 99 percent confidence score threshold for identification, adding that the tech should not be the "sole determinant" in an investigation. It calls for law enforcement to release regular transparency reports on their use of the systems.
Facial recognition technology significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to identify people or objects in photos and video. This makes it a powerful tool for business purposes, but just as importantly, for law enforcement and government agencies to catch criminals, prevent crime, and find missing people. We've already seen the technology used to prevent human trafficking, reunite missing children with their parents, improve the physical security of a facility by automating access, and moderate offensive and illegal imagery posted online for removal. Our communities are safer and better equipped to help in emergencies when we have the latest technology, including facial recognition technology, in our toolkit. In recent months, concerns have been raised about how facial recognition could be used to discriminate and violate civil rights.
What is AI? Everything you need to know about Artificial Intelligence As lawmakers consider ways to ensure that nascent facial recognition tools don't curtail civil liberties, Amazon is stepping in with a few suggestions. The Seattle tech giant on Thursday published a blog post with five proposed guidelines for the responsible use of facial recognition technology. The suggestions come at a delicate time for Amazon: The company in the past year has come under fire for selling Rekognition, an image recognition and analysis service, to law enforcement agencies, even though researchers claim it shows gender and ethnic biases. Meanwhile, in the absence of federal rules, lawmakers in Amazon's home state of Washington are considering their own bill to regulate facial recognition use. Microsoft -- also headquartered in Washington state, is actively lobbying for the state bill -- Bloomberg reports.
It's unclear how many law-enforcement groups are currently using Amazon's technology; it has been used by police departments in Florida and Oregon. An Amazon spokesperson said the company doesn't share customers' names or use cases without their permission. The company also said it supports "calls for an appropriate national legislative framework that protects individual civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their use of facial recognition technology." Amazon is the latest major tech company to indicate its support for such legislation. Microsoft has also said it is in favor of laws that regulate how facial-recognition technology can be used.