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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.