Amazon offers police facial recognition tool, worrying privacy advocates

Posted at 11:12 AM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 11:12:13-04

SEATTLE (KCPQ/CNN) - Amazon's facial recognition technology is getting a lot of attention for privacy concern.

Dozens of organizations signed a letter to Jeff Bezos saying the tech giant's marketing of the technology to police officers can mean people could be identified and tracked in real time, even if they're not involved in crimes.

In 2016, Amazon launched Rekognition, a new online service the company said can identify faces, objects and track people.

It offers the service to anyone at low costs through its giant cloud division.

The decision to market the face recognition tool to police is alarming people like Shankar Narayan with the ACLU of Washington.

He said it's a serious privacy concern to vulnerable communities.

"Communities of color, immigrant communities that are subject to enforcement under this administration are additionally concerned because governments are being handed this powerful surveillance infrastructure. And the concern is they can use it in ways that aren't aligned by civil liberties," Narayan said.

It's unclear how many law enforcement agencies have purchased Rekognition, but on Amazon's list of customers, it lists the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon as one of them.

An analyst from that department said, "We were able to index more than 300,000 photo records within one to two days, and the identification time of suspects went from two to three days down to minutes."

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