Reported by the New York Times, new tests of facial recognition technology suggest that Amazon's system has more difficulty identifying the gender of female and darker-skinned faces compared with similar facial recognition technology services provided by IBM and Microsoft. Amazon's Rekognition is a software application that sets out to identify specific facial features by comparing similarities in a large volume of photographs. The study is of importance, given that Amazon has been marketing its facial recognition technology to police departments and federal agencies, presenting the technology as an additional tool to aid those tasked with law enforcement to identify suspects more rapidly. This tendency has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (See: "Orlando begins testing Amazon's facial recognition in public"). The new study comes from Inioluwa Deborah Raji (University of Toronto) and Joy Buolamwini (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and it is titled "Actionable Auditing: Investigating the Impact of Publicly Naming Biased Performance Results of Commercial AI Products."
Amazon may not have much choice but to address mounting criticism over its sales of facial recognition tech to governments. The American Civil Liberties Union has delivered both a petition and a letter from 17 investors demanding that Amazon drop its Rekognition system and exit the surveillance business. While the two sides have somewhat different motivations, they share one thing in common: a concern for privacy. Both groups are worried that Amazon is handing governments surveillance power they could easily use to violate civil rights, particularly for minorities and immigrants. They could use it to track and intimidate protesters, for instance.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO, announces that his company will draft its own set of laws to regulate the use of facial recognition. The best way to have the law on your side is to create it. Maybe that's what Jeff Bezos thought. As part of the annual event dedicated to its virtual assistant Alexa, Amazon's CEO has just announced that his company will develop a set of laws to regulate facial recognition technology. This draft legislation will then be proposed to U.S. federal legislators.
San Francisco supervisors approved a ban on police using facial recognition technology, making it the first city in the U.S. with such a restriction. Amazon shareholders will continue selling the company's facial recognition technology "Rekognition" to governments and law enforcement agencies. During the e-commerce giant's annual meeting Wednesday, shareholders rejected all proposals including two related to Rekognition, Amazon confirmed to USA TODAY. One proposed banning the sales of the technology and the other called for the company to conduct an independent study and issue a report on the risks of governments using the technology. Amazon did not release shareholder vote totals Wednesday but said information would be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission later in the week.
In August, Amazon's game-changing algorithm "Amazon Rekognition" -- which scans and understands emotional expressions in its users -- was given an update, now recognising additional emotional expressions, including fear. Highly impactful for brands that want to further understand how their customers feel about their branded customer experience (CX), this technology may be a breakthrough in artificial intelligence (AI). But it begs the question: will it improve the customer journey or is emotional data a dangerous game? As Jeff Bezos, chief of Amazon said: "The most important thing is to focus obsessively on the customer". But has this sentiment been taken a little too literally?