Amazon's facial recognition software can track you in real time

Amazon is Discreetly Selling Facial Recognition Technology

'Recipe for authoritarianism': Amazon under fire for selling face-recognition software to police

Amazon released the computer vision system, called Rekognition, in late 2016.

The Orlando Police Department is working with Amazon to test a high-tech facial-recogition system, according to records made public Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

At the time, they noticed two U.S. law enforcement agencies providing testimonials on the Amazon Rekognition website - the Orlando, Florida Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon.

In light of all this, a coalition which incorporates the ACLU and many other organizations has issued a letter to Jeff Bezos asking Amazon to stop selling its Rekognition service to governmental agencies.

Amazon has helped various US jurisdictions use Rekognition, said the letter, citing public records obtained by affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We analyze the video in real time, search against the collection of faces that they have". Its uses go from the well-meaning (identification of lost children in amusement parks) to the benign (identifying guests at the royal wedding), but unsurprisingly its use in police surveillance isn't something that appears prominently in customer-facing marketing literature - though it is in there.

Amazon's response is clear: if a client is using Rekognition in an unlawful or irresponsible manner, it will put a stop to it. A spokesman for the Orlando Police Department said the department was testing Amazon's service but had no plans to use the technology to track the location of elected officials.

The details about Amazon's program illustrate the sprawl of cutting-edge technologies deep into American society - often without public vetting or debate.

He explained that the argument given for adopting body cameras was to make police offers more accountable for their actions.

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Amazon Web Services did not answer emailed questions about how many law enforcement agencies are using Rekognition, but in a written statement the company said it requires all of its customers to comply with the law and to be responsible in the use of its products. Additionally, Rekognition has access to only eight city-owned cameras. Cagle says the resulting documents show a company eager to push law enforcement customers toward real-time facial recognition and connect it to other devices, such as officer body cameras.

'People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government, ' the letter said.

"They have cameras all over the city", said Ranju Das, the director of Rekognition of Orlando, Florida.

Beyond its claim that facial recognition threatens freedom, particularly among minority communities, the ACLU contends that facial recognition algorithms are prone to bias.

The enforcement agencies shelled $400 to get the data comprising 305,000 mugshot photos in the API and Amazon charges a meager amount of $6 per month for using it, making it cheaper than Netflix.

"Imagine if customers couldn't buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?" the company said in a statement. The ACLU asked the two police departments for details of any public consultations held before the system was rolled out and about any safeguards in place to prevent abuse, but the details were sketchy - in part because one of them had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Amazon.

Foodstuffs, which includes the New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square brands, has said it uses facial recognition technology in some North Island stores, but won't say which ones.

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