Amazon has secretly given police around the country new facial recognition technology to catch criminals. Is this an invasion of privacy like China’s surveillance state of facial recognition used in Xinjiang against Uighur Muslims? Or will there be better security by tracking your face?
Amazon’s Facial Recognition: Public Safety, or Mass Surveillance?
Amazon came up with its own facial recognition software in 2016, called Rekognition. It’s a deep-learning image matching service that analyzes millions of photos and videos to identify people, objects, and text. It compares those images to a database to find a similar or exact match.
Now some police departments in Florida and Oregon are working with Amazon’s software to identify people of interest against a database of millions of faces in real time. According to a nondisclosure agreement, the law enforcement agencies started working with Amazon’s Rekognition software in 2017, but it wasn’t until mid-2018 that the public learned it was being used in their communities. They’re concerned that police are using it to track members of the public.
One big concern is mistaken identity. When identifying criminals, Rekognition might not be so accurate, which could lead law enforcement to track down and arrest innocent people. Currently, there are no federal laws to prevent tech companies from gathering and sharing their data. Last month two U.S. senators introduced a bill the Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act. If the bill passes, it would stop companies like Amazon from collecting and sharing facial recognition data without your consent.
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