Orlando Police test Amazon facial-recognition software

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Orlando Police test Amazon facial-recognition software

The ACLU, along with dozens of other groups nationwide, just sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding that the company stop providing the technology to government agencies.

This under-wraps technology, dubbed "Rekognition", reportedly contains a library of "tens of millions of faces", which allow it to track "up to" 100 individuals in a given image and analyze their identity. The ACLU said that Washington County had built a database of 300,000 mugshot photos to use in coordination with Rekognition software. ACLU said in a letter to Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos.

In this video presentation, Das is seen saying the system can be set up to notify the city if cameras see a "person of interest", and it could be used to reconstruct a person's past movements.

Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person.

In the records, Amazon also solicits feedback and ideas for "potential enhancements" to Rekognition's capabilities for governments. While some of the uses Amazon promoted for the product were merely voyeuristic - such as automatically detecting celebrities at the royal wedding - numerous use cases seemed specifically tailored for law enforcement. 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.

The company has developed a powerful and risky new facial recognition system and is actively helping governments deploy it. Amazon calls the service "Rekognition".

Government use of facial-recognition software has raised concerns among civil rights groups that maintain it can be used to quiet dissent and target groups such as undocumented immigrants and black rights activists. The company has a policy to use the technology only to identify a suspect in a criminal investigation, he said, and has no plans to use it with footage from body cameras or real-time surveillance systems.

The ACLU released documents showing correspondence with police departments in Florida, Arizona and other states on Rekognition, which operated by the Amazon Web Services unit of the U.S. tech giant. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California recently obtained documents that show just how closely Amazon is working with cops around the country to implement its product.

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", write lawyers for the ACLU. The NDA was later cited by the county to "justify withholding documents" in response public records requests, the ACLU said. One possible application, Amazon suggested at the time, was that companies could use facial recognition to automatically check in employees entering a building, comparing ID badges to the people wearing them.

"Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology", the spokesperson added. "I can tell you, right now at this time, we only use Washington County jail booking photos".

"Activating a real-time facial recognition system, that can track people, if the technology is there, could be as simple as flipping a switch in some communities", Cagle says.

Amazon similarly deflected suggestions that the technology is inherently intrusive.

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