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FBI trialing Amazon facial biometrics for video processing


The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is piloting Amazon Rekognition to sort the enormous volumes of video footage it collects during investigations, Nextgov reports.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Christine Halvorsen told an audience at Amazon Web Services’ re:Invent in Las Vegas that the trial began in early 2018, after a series of counter-terrorism investigations strained the agency’s technological capacity. The FBI collected a petabyte of data from cellphones and surveillance cameras after the mass shooting carried out in 2017 in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock.

“We had agents and analysts, eight per shift, working 24/7 for three weeks going through the video footage of everywhere Stephen Paddock was the month leading up to him coming and doing the shooting,” Halvorsen said, according to Nextgov.

Rekognition could process the same amount of video in 24 hours, according to Halvorsen, freeing up agents to perform other investigative functions.

Nextgov reports that AWS customers include the CIA and Department of Defense, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is the only local law enforcement agency listed on the company’s customer page. The Orlando Police Department recently began a second trial of Rekognition, which is expected to last nine months.

Discussions between Amazon and Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year led to complaints from company employees, the ACLU, and ultimately letters from members of congress seeking additional information about the facial recognition service.

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