Orlando police defend Amazon Rekognition, a facial recognition tool.


Orlando police say they’d never use Amazon facial recognition on ‘random citizens’

But eventually, isn't that what it's for?


Christina Bonnington


Published May 25, 2018

Orlando police are scrambling to save face after an ACLU report revealed that the city is using Amazon Rekognition technology.

Amazon Rekognition is an artificial intelligence service that lets developers easily analyze images for face, object, and scene identification. It allows images to be compared in real time and can identify large crowds of up to 100 people. When used in conjunction with geolocation services, it can also predict where someone is likely to be based on their previous movement patterns.

In a report shared by the ACLU, Amazon marketed Rekognition to law enforcement agencies as a surveillance tool. It was already being used in Orlando, Florida, and Washington County, Oregon.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Florida city is participating in a limited pilot. Downtown Orlando is outfitted with three cameras that use Amazon’s facial recognition technology, in addition to five cameras positioned inside police headquarters. Thus far, the system has only been used to identify seven Orlando officers, all of whom volunteered for the trial, police said.

“We would never use this technology to track random citizens, immigrants, activists, or people of color,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a press conference Thursday. “The pilot program is just us testing this technology out to see if it even works.”

Mina said that the organization also tests a lot of different products and technologies on a regular basis, including guns, vests, and equipment for police cars.

Still, there are some concerns. After initially agreeing to reveal the downtown locations of the cameras, Orlando police later decided to withhold that information because it would be a security risk. Citizens also don’t know how long the trial has been in place.

Mina imagines that the technology would be implemented on police body cameras and would be used to search for criminal suspects. The overarching goal is to eventually use this tech to “increase public safety and operational efficiency,” according to Amazon, but for now, it’s simply a test.

H/T the Verge

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*First Published: May 25, 2018, 11:36 am CDT