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Yes, Amazon Is Tracking People

May 31, 2018 in Economics

By Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

When most people think of the tech giant Amazon, they think of
an innovative, consumer-friendly company responsible for affordable
deliveries. Recent news is shattering that image.

According to
documents
obtained by American Civil Liberties Union affiliates
in three states, Amazon is providing police departments in Orlando,
Fla., and Washington County, Ore., with powerful facial recognition
technology.

The documents show that the company’s interests go beyond
efficient shopping, and should serve as a reminder not only that
police departments ought to be prohibited from using real-time
facial recognition technology, but also that most lawmakers have
been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the proliferation of
surveillance technology

Amazon’s facial recognition service, Rekognition, is designed to
identify and track people going about their daily business. This
isn’t hyperbole – a Rekognition spokesperson
explicitly mentioned
real-time tracking and identification at
an Amazon Web Services summit earlier this year. The same
spokesperson
went on
to call Orlando a “smart city,” with cameras everywhere
that allow authorities to track persons of interest in real
time.

Orlando Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eduardo Bernal
issued a statement
stressing that the department’s use of
Rekognition is limited and is in an early testing phase. Police
with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon have built a
database of at least
300,000
mugshot photos for use in conjunction with Rekognition
via a mobile app. Last year, an “Information Systems Analyst” with
the Washington County Sheriff’s Office emailed an unnamed Amazon
employee, saying that while Rekognition’s tattoo identification
feature can recognize tattoos, it would be better if it could
specify what the tattoo shows (dragons, flowers, etc.).

In order to protect civil
liberties without hampering innovation, lawmakers should require
public input before surveillance tools are deployed and ensure that
facial recognition databases are purged of data related to
law-abiding people.

Other emails mentioned merging real-time facial recognition with
body cameras, something Axon, one of the largest body camera
manufacturers in America,
is pursuing
. Axon isn’t alone. According to a 2017
Department of Justice survey
, nine of 38 body camera
manufacturers either
have facial recognition capability or have that capability built in
for future use
. The Orlando Police Department
does not put any limits
on biometric tools such as facial
recognition being used on body camera footage. Fortunately, an
official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office pointed out in
one of the released emails that using facial recognition in
conjunction with body cameras
is illegal in Oregon
. However,
the majority of major police departments
…read more

Source: OP-EDS

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