Amazon's Facial Recognition System Can Identify 100 People In A Single Image (And That's Potentially Terrifying)


Amazon has found itself surrounded by controversy after the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that it sold its facial recognition technology to law enforcement in the United States.

Amazon Selling Facial Recognition Software To Cops

On Tuesday, May 22, the ACLU revealed that the tech giant has sold its real-time facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando.

The software, known as Rekognition, was announced in 2016 and is being sold by the company's Amazon Web Services arm. The software is being marketed as a technology that helps identify persons of interest against a collection of millions of faces in real-time.

The company is selling the real-time software to police forces for analyzing security footage, including body camera feeds. It claims that it has the ability to identify as many as 100 people in a single image.

How Is Law Enforcement Using The Technology?

In November, Amazon said in an AWS blog that the Washington County Sherriff's Office in Oregon had been using the facial recognition technology for more than a year. The latter was able to cut down its identification time or reported suspects considerably, from two or three days to mere minutes.

The company also pointed out that the agency successfully apprehended their first suspect within week's time thanks to Amazon Rekognition.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Police Department is using the real-time technology to identify persons of interest in public places and notify officers of their presence.

Amazon Urged To Stop Selling The Software To Law Enforcement

Although Amazon is selling the software to cops so that they can easily catch lawbreakers, civil rights organizations are worried that it could infringe on people's privacy rights and can be misused by the government.

In a letter addressed to Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, the ACLU, along with 40 other activist groups, asked Amazon to stop aiding and abetting a government surveillance infrastructure that spells danger for people across the nation.

"This product poses a grave threat to communities, including people of color and immigrants, and to the trust and respect Amazon has worked to build," the letter reads. "People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government. Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom."

In an e-mailed statement, Amazon responded by saying that it provides a general image recognition software that automatically identifies people, objects, and activities. It requires customers to abide by the law and act responsibly when using the technology.

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