The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates have asked Amazon to stop marketing Rekognition to government agencies, saying they could use the technology to "easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone".
The Washington County Sheriff's Office in OR has used it to quickly compare unidentified suspects in surveillance images to a database of more than 300,000 booking photos from the county jail - a common use of such technology around the country - while the Orlando Police Department in Florida is testing whether it can be used to single out persons-of-interest in public spaces and alert officers to their presence.
No images of the public are being used in the pilot and the Rekognition system is also not being used "in an investigative capacity", he said. 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. "All use of the testing and this pilot is being done and operated in accordance with current and applicable law". "And possibly even to all of OR and beyond".
Amazon face recognition tool triggers alarm
Rekognition was launched back in 2016, as a way for companies to tap into machine learning systems for photo and video analysis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Washington County Sheriff, for instance, and the City of Orlando have both been running Rekognition-powered systems since 2017, it's said. And now a new report suggest that the company is using this tool to help government agencies in the United States.
The tech company has been advising the local government on how best to use facial recognition for policing, according to the documents, including giving a sneak peek at Amazon's roadmap for Amazon Web Services under a non-disclosure agreement.
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"It's not mass surveillance", Deputy and agency spokesman Jeff Talbot said.
Currently, the Washington County Sheriff's Office is only using the booking photos from its own jail in the database of images used with the software. Police in OR say the technology allows officers to identify suspects in minutes as opposed to two OR three days. "Because the service is so new, we are reaching out to customers to make sure they get all the support they need to succeed with their particular use case".
"Applying facial recognition to body cameras would absolutely transform those devices", argued Matt Cagle, technology and civil liberties attorney for the ACLU in California, speaking to the BBC.
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The US activist groups say a large deployment by Amazon, which is one of the leaders in artificial intelligence, could lead to broad surveillance of the US population.
"This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces", Ms. Garvie said.
Amazon has been marketing Rekognition for government surveillance purposes, boasting that the technology provides an "easy and accurate" way to monitor people and that it can be used to identify "people of interest" to law enforcement.
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Emails obtained through the request show how Amazon has been advertising and selling its facial recognition product, Rekognition, for only a few dollars a month to law enforcement agencies - in the hopes that they would encourage other agencies to sign up.