Amazon under fire after giving its facial ‘Rekognition’ software to law enforcement

Amazon is in hot water with civil rights groups after the ACLU found documents detailing Amazon’s quiet facial-recognition deals with law enforcement groups.


May 23, 2018

For the past several months, Amazon has given police in Florida and Oregon facial recognition tools for less than $12/month, according to documents obtained by a Northern California branch of the ACLU.

The previously undisclosed surveillance programs (which resemble programs across the globe) now face the wrath of civil rights advocates who fear the program will target vulnerable populations.

Rekognition’s reckoning

Introduced in 2016, Rekognition was billed as a tool for marketers to spot celebrities and weed out R-rated content. But, with the video surveillance market on its way to $62B in 5 years, Amazon couldn’t help but pitch the tech to law enforcement.

The 2 pilot programs have already nabbed bad guys in real-time using body-camera image databases. But critics believe the system endangers people “labeled suspicious by governments such as undocumented immigrants or black activists.”

“Amazon Rekognition is primed for abuse in the hands of governments,” warned the ACLU in a letter to Jeff Bezos signed by 41 civil rights groups.

‘Face it, every body(cam) is doing it’ — Amazon

Amazon reps defended the e-commerce Goliath saying, “quality of life would be much worse” without controversial technology like Rekognition.

And, Amazon’s not the only company that’s watching. In the US, tech giants such as Palantir race competitors (including NEC and Verint) to sell facial recognition to police forces.

Meanwhile, in China, facial recognition is used widely by law enforcement — earlier this month, Chinese police deployed facial-profiling technology to arrest a man in a crowd of 60k people at a concert.

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