Amazon’s controversial facial recognition technology could soon be another tool used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as the agency is now testing out the software for counter-terrorism investigations.
Amazon first released this software in 2016, and it has created a massive database of faces with the claim that its software can identify members of the public. This technology has been sold to individual police departments, and now the FBI is another one of Amazon’s customers with the claim that this software will be used for counter-terrorism investigations.
For example, following the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, the FBI had a wealth of data to sift through, as they attempted to track all of the movements of suspect Stephen Paddock in the days before the shooting. So they are claiming that having access to Amazon’s software speeds up the process and saves their agents time and resources.
Americans often justify giving up their privacy by claiming they have nothing to hide and expecting to receive security in return. So we have to ask the question of whether this technology actually works and will it provide more security?
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are some serious flaws in Amazon’s Rekognition software. The ACLU did a test using images of the members of Congress and comparing them to more than 25,000 mugshots. The result was that the database matched 28 members of Congress with mugshots of felons.
On top of that, Amazon’s facial recognition technology appears to have a major flaw which has created concerns that it is being used by local law enforcement, and now by the FBI. The technology disproportionately targets people of color, and even though people of color only make up 20 percent of Congress, on the ACLU’s test, made up nearly 40 percent of the Rekognition program’s false matches.
One thing to note is that members of the public have not given their consent for their face to be included in this database. So there is a lot of concern that a partnership between the FBI and Amazon will create a nationwide database of identities that has no accountability and that no one is exempt from.