The organization is anxious the technology will be incorporated into police body cameras and surveillance feeds to track protestors, immigrants, or anyone a city wishes to monitor. At the time, they noticed two USA law enforcement agencies providing testimonials on the Amazon Rekognition website - the Orlando, Florida Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon.
Oregon's Washington County sheriff's office wants to use the system to scan some 300,000 booking photos from its jail that it has compiled since 2001, according to records obtained by the ACLU.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has been using a similar facial recognition software for years.
Representatives for the Washington County Sheriff's Office didn't respond to a phone message seeking comment. In Orlando specifically, Rekognition is now operating as a facial surveillance system in real-time. It can be used for security, such as to sound an alarm when a known shoplifter enters a shop.
Privacy activists including the American Civil Liberties Union are asking Amazon to stop marketing its Rekognition technology to police, out of concern for its use with body cameras and cameras monitoring public areas, the Washington Post reports.
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"If police are looking for an African-American suspect, they may miss even if that person is in their database - it may not find that person", she said.
The police department in Orlando, Florida, is also trying out Rekognition to track people in real time, identifying them as they walk down the street, the ACLU said.
A group led by the ACLU has sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressing concern about the online giant's facial recognition system.
The statement said some agencies have used the program to find abducted people, and amusement parks have used it to find lost children. British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify celebrities at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend.
Amazon has defended working with United States police forces to provide facial recognition technology, amid concern from civil rights groups.
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"This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces", Ms. Garvie said. Now Amazon is offering police something similar for a fraction. Some A.I. software that's used for facial recognition has been shown to be racially biased because it was trained using images with relatively few minorities included. Law enforcement in California and Arizona have already shown an interest in using the technology - and it is hard to imagine that Bezos would heed the ACLU's warnings. "We analyze the video in real time, search against the collection of faces that they have". "You'll also see the service will continue to get better every month just because of the sheer amount of video content we have internally as well as publicly available data sets".
Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all pitch assorted artificially intelligent image, facial, and data analysis services to paying customers in both the public and private sector, to say nothing of the other vendors that solicit government IT business for hosted or on-premises products.
"This product (Rekognition) poses a grave threat to communities, including people of colour and immigrants, and to the trust and respect Amazon has worked to build", the letter said.
The Orlando police department told NPR that its use of the technology was a "pilot program" and that it was following applicable laws. This isn't a case of an outside party making opportunistic use of an emerging technology.
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