What Amazon Selling Facial Recognition Technology to Law Enforcement Means For You

Other | Friday 21st December 2018 | Deidre

It’s no secret that our online actions are being monitored 24/7. Opting to cover up your laptop webcams, whether it be with a sticker, a bit of Blu Tack or a piece of tape, is no longer considered an act of paranoia but a logical solution to reclaiming privacy rights that are being impinged by organisations that gain access to these cameras without our knowledge much less our approval.

Everyone with access to a computer or mobile phone is victim to having their behaviour and activities monitored and interpreted by intelligence agencies. From phone calls to information shared on social media, all activity is monitored, collected and stored in the name of ‘national security’, regardless of whether you have shown signs that you could be a potential threat. But, as always, certain demographics are targeted more than others.

                                                                                         Image result for fbi webcam meme

Surveillance technology continues to take new strides and online monitoring seems a very minute matter compared to what Amazon has in store for us. The ever on-trend Amazon has recently developed its own facial recognition technology, ‘Rekognition’ which according to Amazon, ‘provides highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition on images and video that you provide. You can detect, analyse, and compare faces for a wide variety of user verification, people counting, and public safety use cases.’

We all love innovation and exciting new technology to experiment with, but at what cost? Facial recognition software is not new, however Amazon’s keenness to use it for surveillance is what separates Rekognition from a fun new software to a potential threat for millions of people.

To follow in the footsteps of China’s ‘big brother’ style state, Amazon has begun to sell Rekognition to law enforcement agencies. For some, this may sound unproblematic, criminals will be easily identified, caught and imprisoned which is essentially what we all want. But for others, particularly minorities, this new technology is alarming. Government surveillance has already proven to be highly discriminatory, with individuals being subject to extreme surveillance and over-policing simply for belonging to certain ethnic and religious groups.

“When customers are running a face search, the technology is comparing this data from the source image to each of the images it searches. From there, the service assigns each face in the image a similarity score…only the likelihood that one face is a potential match for another.”

This description by Amazon alludes that the software is flawed and cannot be relied upon not to misidentify people.

Putting this type of surveillance technology in the hands of law enforcement agencies, who by now we are all well aware of the deep-seated prejudices that lies within, is a dangerous endeavour that will challenge civil liberties, even for the average white middle-class male.