Matt Cagle of the ACLU of Northern California says he's disturbed by what he sees as a lack of transparency and public engagement, as police and tech companies work together to bring this new tool to American streets.
The sheriff's office of Washington County, Oregon, built a database of 300,000 mug shots of suspected criminals that officers could have Rekognition scan against footage of potential suspects in real-time.
But the American Civil Liberties Union is anxious that private customers aren't the only ones using the technology. Google has its Cloud Vision API and while the API doesn't support facial recognition, it can be used with the OpenCV library to create a custom facial recognition application with a pretrained machine learning model.
Harp contends the technology doesn't discriminate based on the color of a person's skin. It can be used for security, such as to sound an alarm when a known shoplifter enters a shop.
Now privacy watchdogs are gearing up for a surveillance showdown. The man was allegedly misidentified due to human error.
More than 30 activist groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union urged Amazon Tuesday to stop providing facial recognition technology to law enforcement, warning that it could give authorities 'dangerous surveillance powers'.
Because the software measures what is a biometric measurement - of someone's face - it is much more invasive than simply taking photos or videos of those gathered and comparing them to other photos later.
Public record documents obtained from two U.S. states reveal that Amazon has entered the surveillance market, where it's been silently advertising its facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies.
Amazon has marketed a range of uses for its Rekognition service, unveiled in late 2016.More news: Foreign reporters in North Korea
The statement said some agencies had used the program to find abducted people, and amusement parks had used it to find lost children. The internet giant also noted that the recent British royal wedding used Rekognition to identify attendees.
Local police and the federal government have a history of surveilling social movements ― most notably COINTELPRO, a civil rights era ploy on the part of the FBI to stifle progressive organizations and black social movements.
"This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces", Ms. Garvie said.
Nearly without exception, the agencies buying facial-recognition technology from private companies didn't require the vendors to show evidence that it was accurate.
The next year, Amazon started selling the API to law enforcement agencies including Orlando Police Department in Florida and Washington County Sherrif's Office in OR through Amazon Web Services. The company has a policy to use the technology only to identify a suspect in a criminal investigation, he said, and has no plans to use it with footage from body cameras or real-time surveillance systems.
"Even though our software is being used to identify persons of interest from images provided to the [Sheriff's Office], the perception might be that we are constantly checking faces from everything, kind of a Big Brother vibe", a county employee whose name was redacted wrote t0 Amazon.
"It's not mass surveillance", Deputy and agency spokesman Jeff Talbot said.
It cost the sheriff's office just $400 to load 305,000 booking photos into the system and $6 per month in fees to continue the service, according to an email obtained by the ACLU under a public records request.
In one email exchange past year, an OR law enforcement officer asked if the product could be enhanced to automatically tag inmate booking photos with descriptions of their tattoos. "The company removed mention of police body cameras from its site after the ACLU raised concerns in discussions with Amazon", according to the ACLU.