The outrageous, speedy facial recognition tech of cop dramas on TV and film are closer to being a reality. The ACLU of northern California has acquired documents that show that Amazon's facial recognition project, called Rekognition, is being used by police departments in Florida and Oregon.
The Washington Post reported on the partnerships, sharing information gained from documents acquired by the ACLU.
“Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm can’t be undone. We’re talking about a technology that will supercharge surveillance in our communities,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Director for the ACLU of Northern California. She said the technology could be used “to track protesters, target immigrants, and spy on entire neighborhoods.”
Rekognition was formally introduced in November 2016 and the documents obtained by ACLU via the Freedom of Information Act detail its capabilities. It can identify up to 100 people in a crowd and the sheriff's office in Washington County, Oregon can have the platform use its database of 300,000 mug shots to scan potential suspects in real-time. The office pays Amazon between $6 and $12 a month for the service. "According to the documents, Amazon asked the county to tout its experience with Rekognition to other public sector customers, including a manufacturer of body cameras," the WP report reads.
Washington County Sheriff's Office deputy Jeff Talbot says the program isn't operating in the shadows and is using photos that are already public. Rekognition simply allows officers to scan them instantaneously. “Our goal is to inform the public about the work we’re doing to solve crimes. It is not mass surveillance or untargeted surveillance," he says. Amazon isn't being very coy about the platform, either. There's a webpage dedicated to Rekognition, including features, pricing, resources, and more.
Despite this, a coalition of groups dedicated to civil rights are calling on Amazon to stop selling the program to law enforcement due to concerns about how such surveillance can impact vulnerable communities. Stay tuned to Shacknews for more updates and let us know what you think in Chatty.
Charles Singletary posted a new article, A Sheriff's Office Is Paying A Monthly Fee To Amazon For Facial Recognition Prime
Of course, it's a public API, what do people expect? If the government has the footage then you can safely assume that they will use the full power of machine learning to analyze it. If you don't like it, don't let them put up the cameras (good luck).