Amazon patent application for residential facial recognition network published

A patent application filed by Amazon describing the use of facial recognition technology with networked home security cameras to identify suspicious persons and unwanted visitors has been published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent application was filed with in May, with Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff listed as its inventor. Amazon acquired Ring, which provides security camera and smart doorbell services, earlier this year, CNN reports. The application describes the use of a database filled with convicted felons, registered sex offenders, or individuals tagged as suspicious by homeowners to identify people, while mail delivery people and others could be whitelisted. Homeowners could alert their neighbors, and the system could be used with Ring’s social network Neighbors, which it announced shortly after being taken over by Amazon, as a platform for sharing neighborhood watch data such as images of burglars.

The filing also includes a method of compiling a composite image from multiple cameras in the neighborhood network to gather enough data for a biometric match. The image could also be sent to homeowners’ smartphones.

The idea of a network of residential cameras performing biometric identification worries some privacy advocates, including at the company’s frequent critic, the ACLU.

“The patent is a roadmap for Amazon’s disturbing vision of surveillance in the future,” American Civil Liberties Union technology and civil liberties attorney Jacob Snow told CNN Business. “People have the right to go about their daily lives without being watched and tracked. And there’s no assurance the resolution of the doorbell camera is very good.”

NEC Chief Solutions Architect Matt Pruitt says a mass deployment of Amazon’s facial recognition would benefit the company’s algorithms, but also noted that the cameras used would not be powerful enough to identify people on sidewalks or streets, according to CNN.

Facial recognition-enabled doorbell maker Trueface.ai recently published its principles for responsible deployment of the technology.

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