Amazon Is Sharing Its Facial Recognition Software With Law Enforcement

The software program, called Rekognition, has some positive aspects, but concerns about civil rights abound, as law enforcement could misuse the technology.

Online retail giant Amazon is selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, prompting concerns from civil rights organizations over invasion of privacy issues.

The software, called Rekognition, was rolled out by the company in 2016. The company has defended its use of the program, advocating its positives, such as helping parents find lost children in amusement parks.

But civil rights groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), see a darker path for the facial recognition technology, specifically how it relates to usage by law enforcement. The technology is so advanced that officers wearing body cameras can recognize individuals if their images have been uploaded into the program — a frightening aspect that threatens individuals’ freedoms, some suggest.

“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” a group of civil rights organizations coming together to voice opposition to the software wrote in a letter to Amazon. “Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom. In overpoliced communities of color, it could effectively eliminate it.”

Beyond allowing law enforcement to use this software, Amazon is also charging a very small fee to access it, hoping that its inexpensive costs will result in more agencies reaching out to purchase it as well.

Put into the wrong hands, this technology could be used by law enforcement agencies across the board, including by immigration officials who have already demonstrated a penchant for arresting individuals who aren’t violent criminals. Facial recognition programs also have an inherent bias against people of color, studies have found.

This type of technology needs to be restricted, shared only in rare circumstances and in accordance with our Constitutional rights. As it stands right now, it doesn’t seem those rights are being considered.

Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

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