Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Rekognition, continues to cause controversy.
In documents recently obtained by , we now have a behind-the-scenes look at how Orlando police have been using the technology. After the city let the original pilot program expire after public outcry, Orlando started a second pilot program with an “increased” number of face-scanning cameras.
Amazon’s Rekognition is described broadly as a visual analysis tool. But, deployed by law enforcement, it can scan faces caught on camera and match them against faces in criminal databases. The ACLU called the technology “primed for abuse in the hands of governments” and warned that it “poses a grave threat to communities, including people of color and immigrants.”
In addition, the documents show that Amazon provided Orlando police with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment needed for the Rekognition program at zero cost. Documents also reveal a “mutual nondisclosure agreement” in order to keep information about the program away from the public.
Orlando police haven’t had an easy time working with Amazon’s face-scanning technology, documents show. They reported a number of flaws with the simplest of mechanics, such as even getting a facial recognition stream to work. The documents also show that Amazon provided little help when it came to teaching police how to set up and operate the Rekognition system.
As of now, Orlando is operating three Rekognition IRIS cameras, which are only scanning for matches of current test volunteers from the Orlando police department.
These documents demonstrate just how poorly Amazon’s facial recognition technology seems to work at this point. In July, the ACLU released a report that claimed Rekognition had misidentified 28 members of Congress as suspected criminals. As we , even though people of color made up only around 20 percent of Congress, they accounted for more than 40 percent of the false positives.
Perhaps Amazon should further evaluate its Rekognition technology before pitching its tech to police departments and government agencies like ICE.
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