Amazon has announced a new milestone regarding Rekognition, its in-house facial recognition system. The artificial intelligence-based tech is now able to pick up fear from people's faces.

Rekognition offers a diverse set of tools for face detection, analysis, and recognition in images and videos. It's one of the services Amazon offers as part of its Amazon Web Services cloud platform.

Amazon says it's successfully improved detection accuracy for emotions such as happy, sad, angry, surprised, disgusted, calm, and confused. But it has one more emotion to add to the list: fear.

Rekognition Can Now Detect Fear

It's not immediately clear what the implications of such a development might have, but Amazon confirms that it has also Rekognition's age range estimation accuracy, which means customers can get narrower age ranges "across most age groups."

Unsurprisingly, the new development has drawn some ire from critics, especially considering that some of Amazon's clients come from the law enforcement sector. Add to that the fact that facial recognition remains far from perfect and is known to misidentify women and people of color. In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, released a study showing that the technology misidentified 28 U.S. lawmakers.

Selling To ICE

Civil rights groups called out Amazon and encouraged it to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement agencies. Amazon's investors voted against a proposal to limit the tech, however. Reports also say that the company offered to sell Rekognition to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has become one of the most hotly discussed agencies at the moment due to America's immigration crisis. Amazon has yet to confirm whether it has indeed partnered with ICE to use the software, but the fact remains that it did pitch Rekognition to the agency, triggering an outpouring of backlash from human rights advocates and even its own employees.

In terms of being a viable enough tool for law enforcement, facial recognition is still being contested. Reading a person's emotions purely through facial features could lead to the system branding innocent people as criminals, not to mention the potential for racial-based discriminatory biases that could occur in such a flawed system.

Amazon has deflected criticisms targeted at Rekognition that question the technology's aid in mass surveillance. It has reaffirmed the importance of technology in real-world operations:

"Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology."

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