Amazon Markets Surveillance Technology to Law Enforcement

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Amazon is marketing a facial recognition service to law enforcement, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Marketing materials for the service, known as Rekognition, tout its ability to identify and track "people of interest," scan images against a massive database of faces, and monitor "all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places"—such as airports or protests.

Amazon is already working with customers to implement Rekognition, providing troubleshooting and consulting services. Records requests to two Rekognition customers—the city of Orlando and Oregon's Washington County Sheriff's Office—suggest that neither municipality notified the public or implemented rules for the service's use to protect citizens' civil rights. Internal emails show that at least one employee in Washington County warned that the "ACLU might consider this the government getting in bed with big data."

The technology is ripe for abuse, according to the ACLU.

"If police body cameras, for example, were outfitted with facial recognition, devices intended for officer transparency and accountability would further transform into surveillance machines aimed at the public," the ACLU wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "With this technology, police would be able to determine who attends protests. ICE could seek to continuously monitor immigrants as they embark on new lives."

Law enforcement in both California and Arizona have expressed interest in Amazon's Rekognition service as well.

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