Even though most of us know Amazon as the world’s largest drain on everyone’s wallet, they do quite a bit more not generally visible to their adoring public, including developing a now-controversial face recognition platform called “Rekognition” intended for use by law enforcement agencies. “Controversial” because of a recent report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wherein they used Rekognition to compare the photos of members of Congress against of a database of 25000 mugshots. The result: 28 Congress-critters incorrectly identified as criminals. Regardless of your opinion of their actual work in the capitol, this should raise eyebrows and hard questions from everyone, including the public servants falsely tagged in the ACLU’s “field test.”
What this means for you
Aside from a few well-known early adopters like Washington County and Orlando law enforcement, Amazon refuses to divulge which law enforcement agencies are using their technology, let alone which ones might be considering it for near or far term deployment. If you thought this technology was more science fiction than fact, consider this story which surfaced in March of Chinese law enforcement using glasses with built-in facial recognition in real-life security situations. Also consider that smart phones have been using face recognition for several years now, with countless reports of ease of spoofing the authentication method, as well as the same technology failing because of things like back-lighting (a client of mine, this weekend!), different hair styles or a 5-o’clock shadow.
Government officials, just like us regular consumers, are easily lured by shiny technology, but, just like us (because they are us), they are just as flummoxed when the technology doesn’t work as advertised. Unlike us, their ill-informed purchasing decisions can affect countless more lives, so it behooves us to urge our congress people to put technologies like Rekognition to a higher level of scrutiny and base their decisions on more than Hollywood-esque techno dreams dressed in photogenic eye wear. Will face recognition become a part of law enforcement? Without a doubt, but I’m not sure it’s ready for its close-up just yet, Mr. DeMille.