Amazon has partnered with law enforcement to create a nightmarish reality, one that entails the tracking of each person as if they are a criminal. A world in which ‘persons of interest,’ can be traced and tracked in the public atmosphere without a warrant.
Law enforcement agencies in Orlando, Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon are two ‘organizations of interest,’ whom hold active contracts with Amazon for the service; ‘Rekognition.’
Amazon’s technology; Rekognition, is strikingly invasive, in that it can literally identify a single person out of a group of up to one hundred people, track a ‘persons movement’ throughout a crowd even when the person is not in camera view, identify objects, conduct emotional facial analysis, recognize celebrity’s, and read the text in images or videos.
Out of the many use-cases Amazon has listed for the technology, one of the featured customers from Amazon is The City of Orlando. John Mina, the Chief of Police at the City of Orlando Police Department stated about the opportunity to work with Amazon in regards to the utilization of ‘Rekognition;’ “The City of Orlando is excited to work with Amazon to pilot the latest in public safety software through a unique, first-of-its-kind public-private partnership. Through the pilot, Orlando will utilize Amazon’s Rekognition Video and Amazon Kinesis Video Streams technology in a way that will use existing City resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interests, further increasing public safety, and operational efficiency opportunities for the City of Orlando and other cities across the nation.”
According to documents regarding the use of Rekognition by The Washington County Sherriff’s department, the County has since built a database of roughly 300,000 mug shots. The Washington County sheriff’s Department also developed a mobile app to search and scan the county’s database. Officers can submit images obtained by surveillance or other sources and attempt to match them against the predefined database.
While this does have drastic privacy concerns, there are some seriously good use cases for this technology. One of the other uses that Amazon cites is by a company called Marinus Analytics, a company dedicated to thwarting sex trafficking and human trafficking. The company utilizes ‘Big Data,’ to search the deep web and the public for victims of both sex trafficking and child sex trafficking.
“When we heard about how many children in our own country are exploited daily for sex, we knew we had to do something. Sex slavery, the business of rape, was one of the worst fates we could imagine and we knew that even one child rescued from this fate would be worth it. We’ve been working passionately on solutions since 2011 when we began at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.”
Marinus analytics, utilizing Amazon’s Rekognition technology, built a tool for law enforcement agencies locally and internationally to search and track for missing persons, adult, and youth, that have potentially been taken by human traffickers and child traffickers.
However, granting a corporation the power to hold public files in this manner is of severe concern particularly because Amazon forces those who utilize the product such as The Washington County Sheriff’s Department into Non-disclosure Agreements, meaning that the agencies can justify withholding documents when requested by Freedom of Information Requests.
In addition, when a corporation houses the ability to utilize the data gathered such as images, video, and personal details about individuals what’s to stop Amazon from using the data for other means such as advertising or worse?
Granting a global corporation known for gathering and utilizing personal data for profit the ability to house complex personal data is of the utmost concern mainly because holding a tech giant like Amazon accountable can be difficult. In the public sphere of law enforcement, the police are accountable locally to the people, but Amazon is accountable only to shareholders both domestically and internationally.
Furthermore, what’s to stop the conglomerate organization from compiling the data gathered by local agencies into a single indexable dataset. Such would grant Amazon the ability to search and track virtually anyone within the dataset as it would allow the local agencies the ability to track any single ‘person of interest.’
Previously, The Christian Journal uncovered an additional company venturing into the same murky waters of facial recognition. NVIDIA, though a smaller corporation than Amazon, is attempting to create a similar system, one that would collect data from any camera synced with the technology called ‘Metropolis.’
Both of the aforementioned technologies being produced for the purpose of harnessing technology for the means of facial recognition on a broad public spectrum are part of what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The severe implications that these technologies create is a world strikingly similar to the world mentioned in George Orwell’s 1984. Should these companies not be reigned in, it is evident then that control of the public spectrum is being handed over to the private sector for profit.
Matt Cagle and Nicole A. Ozer. “Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New Face Recognition Technology.” ACLU. . (2018): . .
Martin Kaste. “Orlando Police Testing Amazon's Real-Time Facial Recognition.” NPR. . (2018): . .
AWS. “ Amazon Rekognition.” AWS. . (N/A): . .
Tom Mendelsohn. “Amazon, Google, Apple… Fox News join Microsoft in US gag orders fight.” ARSTechnica. . (2016): . .