Despite outcry from civil rights and privacy groups, the Orlando Police Department is still utilizing Amazon’s facial recognition program, Rekognition, reports USA Today.
Amazon constructed Rekognition two years ago “as a way for customers to quickly search a database of images and look for matches.” The solution also uses the internet giant’s cloud computing network AWS “to compare images to a database of images” customers provide. Different organizations, including the Orlando Police Department, are using Rekognition for safety and security purposes.
USA Today says that the department is using it with images of seven officers who volunteered for a trial. During the trial, Orlando created a database with the images of the officers, “then compared those to a video stream from eight city-owned surveillance cameras to see if it could correctly identify the officers when in view of the cameras.” The Orlando Police Chief, John Mina, said in a statement earlier that the department “has made good strides with the pilot program” and will continue testing.
Where things get sticky:
Even though the intended goal for Rekognition is to detect dangerous individuals, the public has given less positive feedback about how it’s being used. “People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government. By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, posing a particular threat to communities already unjustly targeted in the current political climate,” said ACLU.
Plus, Amazon is giving company resources to help government agencies deploy Rekognition, including best practices, etc. This increases worries about potential abuse of the technology, and that technology companies, including Amazon, are “getting in bed with big data.” As a result, decision makers deciding whether or not to invest in similar surveillance solutions might consider keeping tabs on Amazon’s deployment and usage of Rekognition. Doing so can shed light on the impact it has on users, and the public as well; if it evokes a more negative reaction, as Rekognition seems to have, it might instigate a negative reputation for a decision maker’s company as well.