Amazon is selling powerful new facial recognition technology to law enforcement

Amazon has developed a powerful new facial recognition technologyreports ACLU NorCal. The service is called “Rekognition,” and it analyzes people in real time, quickly scanninginformation it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces. It’s capable of recognizing up to 100 people in a single image, and the scary part is that Amazon markets the service to law enforcement and is actively helping governments deploy it.

Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon.

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a “common use case” for this technology. Among other features, the company’s materials describe “person tracking” as an “easy and accurate” way to investigate and monitor people. Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify “people of interest” raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments — such as undocumented immigrants or Black activists — will be seen as fair game for Rekognition surveillance. It also says Rekognition can monitor “all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports” — at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

Amazon lists the city of Orlando, Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon among its clients. Washington County has already built up a database of over 300,000 mugshot photos to use in coordination with Rekognition, and it has even built a mobile app for its deputies to utilize the technology while out in the field. Amazon is providing support for these customers via consulting, troubleshooting, and other forms of aide.

In what Orlando’s police chief praises as a “first-of-its-kind public-private partnership,” Amazon promised free consulting services to build a Rekognition “proof of concept” for the city. Rekognition face surveillance is now operating across Orlando in real-time, according to Amazon, allowing the company to search for “people of interest” as footage rolls in from “cameras all over the city.”

The American Civil Liberties Union adds that it has evidence law enforcement agencies in California and Arizona have contacted Washington County asking about Rekognition, as have multiple fusion centers—data miners who disseminate intel across state and federal agencies. In an effort to slow the spread, the ACLU and a coalition of other civil rights organizations have teamed up to implore Amazon to stop allowing governments to use its tech.

Source: ACLU NorCal

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