Privacy groups call on Amazon to stop marketing facial recognition technology to police
Privacy activists including the American Civil Liberties Union are asking Amazon to stop marketing its Rekognition technology to police, out of concern for its use with body cameras and cameras monitoring public areas, the Washington Post reports.
The ACLU and other groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch, wrote to Amazon after receiving responses to public record requests to law enforcement agencies using Rekognition. Promotional materials from Amazon recommend using the service with body cameras, which would make it easy for law enforcement to monitor public protests and historically disproportionally targeted groups like ethnic minorities and immigrants, the ACLU says.
“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” the ACLU writes in a post. “By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, posing a particular threat to communities already unjustly targeted in the current political climate. Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely difficult to undo.”
Rekognition is currently used by the Police Department of Orlando, Florida, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. Records show the sheriff’s office was able to load over 300,000 booking photos into the system for $400, and pays $6 a month to use it, with deputies utilizing the service roughly 20 times per day.
“We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner,” Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the Post. “We want our local community to be aware of what we’re doing, how we’re using it to solve crimes — what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not.”
Amazon boosted the performance capabilities of Rekognition late last year to include real-time recognition across tens of millions of faces, and detection of up to 100 faces in challenging crowd photos.