Amazon's facial recognition tool is being referred to as a'recipe for authoritarianism and disaster' after it was revealed to be used by law enforcement officials. Now experts say it raises even greater concerns, as the artificial intelligence used to power the technology could exhibit racial bias. Many are calling on Amazon to release data that shows they've trained the software to reduce bias, but it has yet to do so. A controversial facial recognition tool, dubbed Rekognition, marketed to police has been defended by its creator, online retailer Amazon. The controversy was spurred by a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which found that Amazon's facial recognition tool, dubbed'Rekognition', is being used by law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Florida.
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.
In this Oct. 31, 2018, file photo, a man, who declined to be identified, has his face painted to represent efforts to defeat facial recognition during a protest at Amazon headquarters over the company's facial recognition system, "Rekognition," in Seattle. San Francisco is on track to become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies. SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco is on track to become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies, reflecting a growing backlash against a technology that's creeping into airports, motor vehicle departments, stores, stadiums and home security cameras. Government agencies around the U.S. have used the technology for more than a decade to scan databases for suspects and prevent identity fraud. But recent advances in artificial intelligence have created more sophisticated computer vision tools, making it easier for police to pinpoint a missing child or protester in a moving crowd or for retailers to analyze a shopper's facial expressions as they peruse store shelves.
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.
Amazon is drawing the ire of its shareholders after an investigation found that it has been marketing powerful facial recognition tools to police. Nearly 20 groups of Amazon shareholders delivered a signed letter to CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday, pressuring the company to stop selling the software to law enforcement. The tool, called'Rekognition', was first released in 2016, but has since been selling it on the cheap to several police departments around the country, with Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon and the city of Orlando, Florida among its customers. Shareholders, including the Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, join the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other privacy advocates in pointing out privacy violations and the dangers of mass surveillance. 'We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,' the shareholders write.