Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), creators of a facial-recognition software, is trying to woo law-enforcement agencies to use its software. The cloud-based system is capable of identifying people in real time.
Rekognition, the trade name Amazon uses for its said software is capable of identifying as many as 100 faces in a single image. It can also compare images against databases carrying millions of faces.
The facial-recognition system was launched in 2016 and is already being used by Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon and Orlando Police Department.
Its this use that has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to request to cease selling the Rekognition software to police. The privacy activists were concerned that the police would use the technology to monitor public areas using installed cameras or body cameras.
The ACLU together with Human Rights Watch and Electronic Frontier Foundation said it had obtained documents from the two U.S departments said to have been using Rekognition. They claimed that the service touched on profound civil liberties as well as civil rights.
According to the document it was revealed that the Washington County was able to load 300,000 mugshots into their database. It was also using a mobile app specifically designed for use by the deputies for cross-referencing faces.
The Orlando Police Department is also said to be testing the system can single out suspects in public areas and notify their presence to the police.
Matt Cagle, the ACLU attorney via a written post, said that people should be allowed to walk down the streets without being watched by the government. He said that by allowing the use of facial recognition systems, freedom will be threatened. He continued that it would lead to posing a particular threat to communities already threatened in the current political climate.
In a rejoinder, Washington County’s deputy stated that their aim was not mass surveillance but to inform the public the work they were doing to solve crimes.
Amazon also absolved itself by stating that Rekognition was not intrusive and that it had many useful applications.