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Amazon Has Officially Entered the Surveillance Business


As reported by Matt Cagle and Nicole A. Ozer, Amazon has unveiled a new service called "Amazon Rekognition,” which purports to be one of the most powerful facial-recognition services available. Pitched expressly at law enforcement agencies, Amazon claims that Rekognition can engage in “person tracking” and identify up to one hundred people in a single image. For more on this chilling new technology, read Cagle and Ozer’s full article on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union. Here’s an excerpt:

Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon.

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a “common use case” for this technology. Among other features, the company’s materials describe “person tracking” as an “easy and accurate” way to investigate and monitor people. Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify “people of interest,” raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments — such as undocumented immigrants or Black activists — will be seen as fair game for Rekognition surveillance. It also says Rekognition can monitor “all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports,” at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

Amazon’s Rekognition raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns. Today, the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights organizations demanded that Amazon stop allowing governments to use Rekognition.

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