American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy activists are asking
Amazon to stop marketing a powerful facial recognition tool to police,
saying law enforcement agencies could use the technology to "easily
build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone."
tool, called Rekognition, is already being used by at least one agency
— the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon — to check
photographs of unidentified suspects against a database of mug shots
from the county jail, which is a common use of such technology around
privacy advocates have been concerned about expanding the use of
facial recognition to body cameras worn by officers or safety and
traffic cameras that monitor public areas, allowing police to identify
and track people in real time.
tech giant's entry into the market could vastly accelerate such
developments, the privacy advocates fear, with potentially dire
consequences for minorities who are already arrested at
disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally
or political protesters.
should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the
government," the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon on Tuesday.
"Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom."
released Rekognition in late 2016, and the sheriff's office in
Washington County, west of Portland, became one of its first law
enforcement agency customers. A year later, deputies were using it
about 20 times per day — for example, to identify burglary suspects in
store surveillance footage. Last month, the agency adopted policies
governing its use, noting that officers in the field can use real-time
face recognition to identify suspects who are unwilling or unable to
provide their own ID, or if someone's life is in danger.
are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street
corner," said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff's
office. "We want our local community to be aware of what we're doing,
how we're using it to solve crimes — what it is and, just as
importantly, what it is not."
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.
Web Services did not answer emailed questions about how many law
enforcement agencies are using Rekognition, but in a written statement
the company said it requires all of its customers to comply with the
law and to be responsible in the use of its products.
statement said some agencies have used the program to find abducted
people, and amusement parks have used it to find lost children.
British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify
celebrities at the royal
wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan
Markle last weekend.
year, the Orlando, Florida, Police Department announced it would begin
a pilot program relying on Amazon's technology to "use existing City
resources to provide real-time detection and notification of
persons-of-interest, further increasing public safety."
has a network of public safety cameras, and in a presentation posted
to YouTube this month , Ranju Das, who leads Amazon Rekognition, said
Amazon would receive feeds from the cameras, search them against
photos of people being sought by law enforcement and notify police of
about recognizing people, it's about tracking people, and then it's
about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers
... can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening," he
Orlando Police Department declined to make anyone available for an
interview about the program, but said in an email to The Associated
Press that the department "is not using the technology in an
investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time."
purpose of a pilot program such as this, is to address any concerns
that arise as the new technology is tested," the statement said. "Any
use of the system will be in accordance with current and applicable
law. We are always looking for new solutions to further our ability to
keep the residents and visitors of Orlando safe."
letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters
in California, Oregon and Florida. More than two dozen organizations
signed it, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human
Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at
Georgetown University Law Center, said part of the problem with
real-time face recognition is its potential impact on free-speech
police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face
recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric
measurement — more akin to police walking through a demonstration and
demanding identification from everyone there.
technology isn't that different from what face recognition companies
are already selling to law enforcement agencies. But its vast reach
and its interest in recruiting more police departments to take part
raise concerns, she said.
raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in
public spaces," Garvie said.
Pentagon Is About To Do Something Stupid
by Derek Hunter, op-ed via The Daily Caller,
now, there’s a fairly good chance your personal information
has been exposed, to one degree or another, to hackers. Personally,
I’ve received notifications from several companies and my
college about hacking attempts they’ve suffered that made my
personal information vulnerable to identity thieves, and you
or someone know likely has, too. It’s the reality of living in
the 21st century - hackers are constantly attempting to access
our information, which requires us to take extra precautions
to protect our important information. If
only government were so concerned.
million customers of Target stores had their
credit and debit card information stolen. The Equifax hack
exposed nearly half the country, almost
150 million people’s personal information to hackers.
Even the federal government suffered a breach when, in 2015,
it was announced that the records of 21.5 million government
employees and others who had gone through background checks
for security clearances for the Office of Personnel
Management had been stolen, likely by Chinese hackers.
it’s digital, it vulnerable.
truth presents the federal government with a special
problem. The feds amass more data
than just about anyone. And, more importantly, more sensitive
data than anyone. And that sensitive data is a prime target
for hackers, both from hostile states and anyone willing to
sell to them. The potential rewards for bad actors are
limitless, which makes the danger limitless as well.
federal government is left scrambling to stay one step ahead
of the hoard seeking to breach those secrets. This
race had led to some necessary innovations and strategic
thinking, like a decentralized system so no one can access
everything by accessing one system.
they used to have a decentralized system, but in a
boneheaded move only the government could concoct, the
Pentagon is looking to create a single, giant database
for our nation’s secrets in the cloud.
the government, they don’t have the ability to create their
own cloud; they’re farming it out. Just imagine: the most
important bits of intelligence our nation gathers — names,
dates, spy satellite photos, bank accounts, everything
required for our intelligence agencies to keep us one step
ahead of our enemies, to keep us safe — all entrusted to one
which company? Amazon. It’s not yet official, but the
Pentagon has a “winner-takes-all”
bidding process they’re advancing that even the other
competitors for the contract admit Amazon will win.
decision is, quite simply, crazy. Why
would the government award a contract, this contract, to a
company the president routinely puts in his crosshairs? As it
turns out, you can thank President Barack Obama for that.
reward tech companies that supported his campaign, Obama
populated the government’s digital services with their
Weekly Standard reported,including the fact that the
Defense Innovation Board is “chaired by Bezos’s partner and
fellow Clinton supporter Eric Schmidt.”
swamp didn’t become so swampy by itself.
the Standard put it, this situation “created an environment
where political enemies of President Donald Trump can
continue to give kickbacks to the groups and individuals who
opposed him, undermining his ability to lead our national
we have a national security system on the verge of
consolidating all of its intelligence in one place, making
it a prime target for hacking. And the company set to get
the multi-billion-dollar, multi-year contract to house all
of those secrets is owned by the richest man in the world,
who just happens to be one of President Trump’s targets for
criticism. Add to that the fact that the
government bureaucracy that set this in motion is populated
with people loyal to the previous administration and you begin
to see the scope of this mess.
all that has come to light about the intelligence community in
the past month, the exposure of the Obama administration’s
spying on the Trump campaign, the idea of trusting his
appointees with protecting our nation’s secrets seems, at a
minimum, ill-advised. And putting them all under one umbrella
while trusting Amazon with them makes even less sense.
is the swamp President Trump promised to drain.
president, at a minimum, needs to stop the centralizing of our
national security data. Unless and until we can protect our
personal data and our credit card transactions, we should not
put the biggest prize in international intelligence in one
would just be stupid.
Gene Johnson at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle