Documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California have shed new light on Rekognition, Amazon’s little-known facial recognition project. Rekognition is currently used by police in Orlando and Oregon’s Washington County, often using nondisclosure agreements to avoid public disclosure. The result is a powerful real-time facial recognition system that can tap into police body cameras and municipal surveillance systems.
According to further reporting by The Washington Post, the Washington County Sheriff pays between $6 and $12 a month for access to Rekognition, which allows the department to scan mug shot photos against real-time footage.
The most significant concerns are raised by the Orlando project, which is capable of running real-time facial recognition on a network of cameras throughout the city. The project was described by Rekognition project director Ranju Das at a recent AWS conference in Seoul.
“PEOPLE SHOULD BE FREE TO WALK DOWN THE STREET WITHOUT BEING WATCHED BY THE GOVERNMENT.”
“This is an immediate response use case,” Das told the crowd. “There are cameras all over the city [of Orlando]. Authorized cameras are streaming the data to Kinesis video stream…. We analyze that data in real time and search against the collection of faces that they have. Maybe they want to know if the mayor of the city is in a place, or there are persons of interest they want to track.”
For the ACLU, that capability raises significant civil liberties concerns. “By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, posing a particular threat to communities already unjustly targeted in the current political climate,” the group said in a statement. “People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government.”
Courtesy: The Corbett Report / The Verge