Amazon's Face Recognition Technology Raises Fears Of 'Big Brother'

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

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

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.

"It's about recognizing people, it's about tracking people, and then it's about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers. can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening", he said.

Law enforcement agencies in Florida and OR are using the service for surveillance, according to the ACLU. It puts passive cameras on surveillance steroids, giving any person who strolls past a government camera a chance to be mistaken for a wanted suspect. "We are not putting a camera out on a street corner", said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. They could even involve building Rekognition software into the body cameras that police allegedly wear to increase transparency and public accountability (even though the cameras tend to mysteriously malfunction at inopportune moments).

In its letter, the ACLU writes that Rekognition could have a chilling effect on how people act in society.

Nonetheless, documents obtained by the ACLU show that Amazon continued to privately market Rekognition as a surveillance solution to law enforcement, with a primer on its facial recognition system.

The ACLU sent the open letter to Bezos knowing that the Amazon CEO was one of the first public figures to criticize Trump's Muslim ban a year ago.

A report by The Washington Post suggests that the Washington Country Sheriff pays between $6 (Rs 409 approx) to $12 (Rs 819 approx) a month to Amazon for to use Rekognition, which in turn allows the county police to scan mugshot photos of people against the real-time footage.

Using police body cameras as facial recognition devices would transform police into surveillance machines aimed at the public, it said.

The Orlando Police Department is one of the owners of Rekognition, which can identify and track people in real time.

Rekognition is already being used by the Orlando Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR, according to documents the ACLU obtained under Freedom of Information requests.

"Amazon's Rekognition raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns", the ACLU said today.

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", the letter also reads.

The programs use artificial intelligence technology to "identify the objects, people, text, scenes and activities, as well as detect any inappropriate content", according to the Amazon website.

The popularity of Amazon's face recognition technology is growing and California and Arizona have already contacted Washington County Police asking them about Amazon's face-recognition technology. The group used public records requests to learn about the service.

The technology was not a secret - Amazon had published details of its work with police on its AWS blog. "Imagine if customers couldn't buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?"

Amazon's statement added, "W$3 e require our customers to comply with the law and be responsible when using Amazon Rekognition". However, the outcry highlights some of the problems with the adoption of this surveillance technology: companies are shopping it around to governments and police with no real public input, and little consideration for privacy violations and other abuses.

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