Orlando Police Department tests facial recognition software


Civil liberties groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are concerned that low-priced facial recognition software marketed by online retail giant Amazon to law enforcement agencies could lead to chilling abuses, allowing police to track millions of people in real time. In Orlando, Amazon Reckognition is using footage rolls from cameras all over the city to search for people of interest for the county police.

Soon after that, the company started marketing it to police departments as a tool to fight crime, according to the New York Times. The county later cited this NDA to justify withholding documents in response to the ACLU's public records request. In a presentation from a developer conference in Seoul, South Korea, Amazon's Ranju Das said, "It's about recognizing people, it's about tracking people, and then it's about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers. can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening".

In marketing materials obtained by the group, Amazon Web Services says its Rekognition system uses artificial intelligence to quickly identify people in photos and videos, enabling law enforcement to track people.

At the time, they noticed two United States law enforcement agencies providing testimonials on the Amazon Rekognition website - the Orlando, Florida Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon.

Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person.

The ACLU released documents showing correspondence with police departments in Florida, Arizona and other states on Rekognition, which operated by the Amazon Web Services unit of the USA tech giant. She said that she anxious that people's civil rights are violated when law enforcement keep their images in a database even after they are proved innocent or were never charged.

Documents also suggest Amazon is looking to partner with body camera manufacturers to add its facial recognition tech.

In a later statement, after NPR's story was first published, the department said the pilot was "limited to only 8 City-owned cameras" and a "handful" of officers who had volunteered to participate.

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Through a freedom of information request, the ACLU was able to obtain emails sent back and forth between Amazon staff and law enforcement agencies in the states of OR and Florida.

The documents have also revealed that Amazon has offered to connect Washington County Police with Amazon's other government customers interested in using Rekognition and a body camera manufacturer. "Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology", it said in a statement.

"Washington County [Oregon] has since built a database of at least 300,000 mugshot photos to use in coordination with Rekognition".

A 2016 study from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology found that over 117 million American adults are included in facial recognition databases used by law enforcement agencies.

While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement - more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there.

"They have cameras all over the city", he said.

"So with Amazon Rekognition, it lets you pass real time videos to us using our APIS or SDK we provided, and we'll detect all sorts of things in the video: objects, face and scenes, like a package being arrived", the executive said.