Amazon's facial recognition software, Rekognition, has a few customers in law enforcement, which include Orlando, Fl; and Washington County, OR. And it's forcing shareholders to urge Amazon to cease the sales. About 20 groups of shareholders are urging Amazon to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement, citing concerns of privacy. The software allows the customers to upload face databases to automatically identify people.
There was a case where the Washington County Sheriff's office had identified persons of interest using this software, including a shoplifter who was caught on camera. This helped the sheriff's quickly identify the person and press charges, instead of needing to use memory to find and identify the person. But many groups are worried that this software is too much of a privacy intrusion. The ACLU has already been after Amazon to stop selling the software, and now some shareholders, which include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, have joined in the fight. These groups are pointing out the risks of doing mass surveillance such as this. These groups also warn about potential civil and human rights violations with Rekognition.
Facial Recognition isn't something that Amazon is doing alone, many tech companies are now using facial recognition for different things, and there's not much in the way of them uploading that data to a server in the cloud. Which means this issue could become a hot topic in the coming years. Amazon likely won't be the only one that shareholders begin to urge to stop selling facial recognition software. Of course, law enforcement agencies are always looking for things like this that can help them do their job easier and catch more people breaking the law. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out in the coming weeks, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Amazon discontinue Rekognition, or at least stop selling it to law enforcement.