Many hailed the move as a victory for accountability.
Analysis The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday expressed dismay that Amazon Web Services has been urging USA government agencies to use its Rekognition API for state-sponsored facial recognition. A spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff's office told the Times it was not using the technology to surveil citizens en masse but to assist in criminal investigations.
"That is a recipe for authoritarianism and disaster", Cyril said.
"We are aware of those privacy concerns", he said.
"Today, the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights organizations demanded that Amazon stop allowing governments to use Rekognition". "Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely hard to undo". However, the ACLU notes that Amazon is "marketing Rekognition for government surveillance".
The technology, called Amazon Rekognition, can identify people's faces in digital images and video.
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"When we find that AWS services are being abused by a customer, we suspend that customer's right to use our services", Amazon said in an emailed statement.
The company also stressed its technology is used for humane purposes, such as finding abducted children or even a child lost at an amusement park. Customers provide the data for Amazon's tool to search.
Amazon's statement added, "W$3 e require our customers to comply with the law and be responsible when using Amazon Rekognition".
A systems analyst with the sheriff's office wrote he was, "hoping to expand our backend of images to every law enforcement agency in the metro Portland area".
One police department now using Rekognition is Washington County, Oregon, to perform such tasks as recognizing jail booking photos then verifying them against actual video footage or photos of suspects involved in crimes.
The ACLU asked both Washington County and Orlando for records showing that the public had been consulted before the rollout of the technology, but no records were produced. "They have cameras all over the city".
A quote from Orlando police Chief John Mina is featured on Amazon's "customers" page for Rekognition, in which he says the city is "excited to work with Amazon to pilot the latest in public safety software".
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But while the capabilities of the technology were impressive, the potential downfallswere catastrophic, warned Cyril.
"We already know that facial recognition algorithms discriminate against Black faces, and are being used to violate the human rights of immigrants", said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, in a press release.
Amazon contends that it makes no sense to block emerging technologies exclusively on the fear of how they might be misused in future, pointing out that our "quality of life would be much worse" if we failed to capitalise on the potential benefits.
"You not only increase the speed at which discrimination can take place, but you increase the scale at which discrimination can take place". The cities adopted the technology without prior public discussion, the documents reveal.
In a blogpost detailing their findings, Matt Cagle and Nicole A Ozer of the ACLU responded: "That employee's prediction was correct".
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