Culture

The scope of Amazon's surveillance operation is staggering

Jeff Bezos' monolith says it stands with George Floyd protesters. So why won't it stop tracking and profiling them?

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Amazon keeps its facial recognition technology efforts under tight wraps. Despite multiple complaints of negligence and abuse against its workers alongside its alarming collaborative projects with controversial law enforcement authorities, Jeff Bezos' behemoth company likes to front as progressive. Humane even.

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In a move to seemingly appease consumers, it makes sense then that Amazon attempted to signal support for the ongoing George Floyd protests. The irony, however, was not lost on people who quickly pointed out Bezos' complicity in transgressions against activists through one key Amazon venture: its facial recognition system.

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While it is known that Amazon's facial recognition expedition involves police officers now, one county office may help us truly understand just how deep Rekognition goes and how clandestine authorities remain about its capabilities, accuracy rate, potential for risk, and possible civic liberty issues.

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400

The number of partnerships Ring, which is owned by Amazon, has formed with police groups.

The Washington Post

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Amazon's Rekognition and the Washington County Sheriff's Office...

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30K

The number of mugshots taken since 2001 that Rekognition amassed from the Washington county jail alone.

The Washington Post

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1K+

Number of facial recognition inquiries made by Washington county deputies to track people's Facebook profiles, home addresses, and more.

The Washington Post

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$7

The paltry amount Washington County pays Amazon per month for private image searches.

The Washington Post

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Even beyond Rekognition's involvement with the Washington deputies, Amazon's facial recognition system has been repeatedly criticized for its inaccuracies while its company proponents have been scrutinized for attempting to push against anti-facial recognition software ordinances like that in Portland, Oregon.

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$12K

How much Amazon spent lobbying against a Portland, OR facial recognition ordinance that would protect private citizens from abuse.

OneZero

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Facial recognition algorithms are 10 to 100 times more likely to misidentify people of color, particularly East Asian as well as black individuals, according to The National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

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28

The number of members of Congress misidentified by Amazon's Rekognition system.

Amazon

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27

The number of New England athletes Amazon's tech falsely matched with mugshots.

ACLU

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“Anytime you do facial recognition, it’s a best guess. It’s a probability score. Anytime you’re in an area where they [law enforcement or the government] are using facial recognition, you have to worry about being falsely matched to someone. Or what’s even worse, someone being falsely matched to you.”

David Harding, ImageWare Systems' chief technology officer in an interview with Digital Trends

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These reports and numbers might explain why people don't seem so thrilled about Amazon's supposed support for the Floyd protests. If the company is indeed worried about citizen safety and privacy, it would begin by scrapping its existing and future pacts with law enforcement agencies. Otherwise, this is all talk, and people have understandably lost patience for that.

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