Daily Trends Now
Daily Trends Now

Amazon is Discreetly Selling Facial Recognition Technology

Amazon is Discreetly Selling Facial Recognition Technology

NY police, for instance, have already been caught filming protesters as an intimidation tactic - Rekognition could automate that process by flagging people who routinely show up at protests, no matter how innocent they are.

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", the letter said. Researchers at Georgetown University estimate there are more than 130 million American adults in criminal facial recognition databases in the U.S.

The Associated Press reports that software sold by Amazon Web Services (AWS), known as Rekognition, is already being used by the Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR to compare photos of unidentified suspects to a database of more than 300,000 mugshots collected from the jail since 2001. A year later, deputies were using it about 20 times per day - for example, to identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage. Last month, the agency adopted policies governing its use, noting that officers in the field could use real-time face recognition to identify suspects who were unwilling or unable to provide their own ID, or if someone's life was in danger. "We are not mass-collecting". A spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff's office told the Times it was not using the technology to surveil citizens en masse but to assist in criminal investigations. And the utility of AI services like this will only increase as more companies start using advanced technologies like Amazon Rekognition.

It said the tech had in the past been used to find lost children or other people of interest - and had great potential for fighting crime in future. The letter underscores how new tools for identifying and tracking people could be used to empower surveillance states.

Amazon is selling facial recognition technology to police across the US.

But like many surveillance tools used by police, such as the StingRay developed by the Harris Corporation, information is hard to come by because departments are made to sign nondisclosure agreements before purchasing or licensing the technology. The goal of a pilot program such as this is to address any concerns that arise as the new technology is tested. "All use of the testing and this pilot is being done and operated in accordance with current and applicable law".

The letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters in California, Oregon, and Florida.

The organization is anxious the technology will be incorporated into police body cameras and surveillance feeds to track protestors, immigrants, or anyone a city wishes to monitor. The ACLU specifically asked for any evidence that the public had been given an opportunity to discuss the use of this technology before its deployment, but no such evidence was provided.

While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement - more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there.

"We know that putting this technology into the hands of already brutal and unaccountable law enforcement agencies places both democracy and dissidence at great risk", Malkia Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice, said in a statement.

The obvious concern is that it will be used by the authorities to keep track of citizens engaged in lawful protests and demonstrations and used to target undesirable elements, however those might be defined, with a consequent chilling effect on democratic rights.


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