Amazon is selling police departments a real-time facial recognition system

Documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California shed new light on Rekognition, Amazon's little-known facial recognition project. Rekognition is currently used by police in Orlando and Washington County in Oregon, often using confidentiality agreements to avoid public disclosure. The result is a powerful real-time facial recognition system that can access body cameras of the police and municipal surveillance systems.

The most important concerns arise from the Orlando project, which is capable of executing facial recognition in real time in a network of cameras throughout the city. The project was described by the project director Rekognition, Ranju Das, at a recent AWS conference in Seoul.

"This is an immediate response use case," Das told the crowd. "There are cameras all over the city [of Orlando]authorized cameras transmit the data to the Kinesis video broadcast … We analyze that information in real time and look against the collection of faces they have. the mayor of the city is in a place, or there are people of interest who want to track. "

For the ACLU, that capacity raises important civil liberties concerns. "By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, which represents a particular threat to communities already unfairly attacked in the current political climate," the group said in a statement. "People should be able to walk down the street without being watched by the government."

Introduced in November as part of the Amazon Web Services cloud, Rekognition is also used by consumer services such as Pinterest and C-SPAN for object recognition and analytics. More recently, he provided the backend for a Sky News project that used face recognition to identify the royal wedding guests. Motorola Solutions, a popular provider of body cameras for the police, is also a customer.

The ACLU has already joined other groups to ask Amazon to stop providing facial recognition services to authorities and other government agencies. "We demand that Amazon stop boosting a government surveillance infrastructure that poses a serious threat to customers and communities across the country," the groups said in an open letter addressed to CEO Jeff Bezos. "Amazon should not be in the business of providing surveillance systems like Rekognition to the government."

Amazon did not respond to a request for comments.