Amazon's Facial 'Rekognition' Tool Used By Cops Is Cheaper Than Netflix

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

Rekognition technology is now operating across Orlando, with footage rolling in from "cameras all over the city" - and Orlando's police chief has praised the "first-of-its-kind public-private partnership" with Amazon.

"Applying facial recognition to body cameras would absolutely transform those devices", argued Matt Cagle, technology and civil liberties attorney for the ACLU in California, speaking to the BBC.

"City of Orlando is a launch partner of ours", Das said.

Existing customers include the city of Orlando and the Washington Country Sheriff's Office in OR, which has built a database of 300,000 mugshot photos to use with Rekognition.

In Orlando, meanwhile, there's a face recognition system operating in real-time already. Washington County even signed a non-disclosure agreement created by Amazon to get "insight into the Rekognition roadmap" and provide additional feedback about the product. The camera feeds are sent through Amazon Kinesis Video Streams to search the video in real time and return data based on what police are looking for - be it the location of a politician or a person of interest.

On Tuesday, The American Civil Liberties Union along with more than twelve other civil rights organizations has asked Amazon to halt to the selling of Rekognition to law enforcement entities.

Amazon's facial recognition technology, Rekognition, is raising concern among privacy advocates. The documents provided showed how Amazon provided product support and offered free consulting services to the government.

Nevertheless, the documents show that Amazon is pushing the system's use in law enforcement.

The tool at issue is called Rekognition, which allows anyone who purchases it to upload a dataset of still and moving images, then check another image against it. Despite all of this, Amazon imposes no meaningful restrictions on how governments can use Rekognition.

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

'Amazon Rekognition is primed for abuse in the hands of governments, ' the letter said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has been using a similar facial recognition software for years.

"Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm can't be undone".

The city says the cameras Amazon has access to are "extremely restricted and limited to only eight city-owned cameras". Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image.

"In this political climate, to be clear, it's not a stretch of the imagination to see this being a tool used to round up immigrants, to target activists, and to surveil entire communities", ACLU of OR executive director David Rogers said.

"People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government", the letter also reads. Until now, American police have used facial recognition primarily to compare still photos from crime scenes with mug shots.

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

Orlando Police say while piloting the program, they're only using facial imaging from their own officers who volunteered on eight city-owned cameras.

Amazon's technology isn't that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies. "According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a "common use case" for this technology", the civil rights group said.

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