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Amazon wants regulation for use of facial recognition technology

Amazon is calling for regulation and legislation on the use of facial recognition technology. The company offers its own Amazon Rekognition, which is used for video and image analysis

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: February 8, 2019 4:58:09 pm
Amazon, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Facial Rekognition, Amazon Facial recognition technology, Amazon facial recognition tech, Amazon video technology, Amazon technology Amazon is calling for regulation and legislation on the use of facial recognition technology and has written a long, detailed blog post outlining its stance on this issue. (Image source: Reuters)

Amazon is calling for regulation and legislation on the use of facial recognition technology. In a blog post written by Michael Punke, who is the Vice-President of Global Public Policy at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company has said that one needs to make sure that facial recognition technology cannot be used to discriminate.

For those who do not know, Amazon has its own facial recognition technology called Amazon  Rekognition, which is offered to its AWS clients. Amazon’s technology can allow developers to add image and video analysis tools to  applications. The service can identify objects, people, text, scenes, and activities, as well as detect any inappropriate content, according to the website.

As a report on Wired points out that the Amazon Rekognition services are also used by law enforcement agencies in the US, especially in identifying and matching photos of suspects. More importantly much of this use is unregulated.

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The post comes in light of arguments that facial recognition technology could be used to “discriminate and violate civil rights.” Amazon’s VP of global policy mentions in this blog post, “You may have read about some of the tests of Amazon Rekognition by outside groups attempting to show how the service could be used to discriminate. In each case, we’ve demonstrated that the service was not used properly; and when we’ve re-created their tests using the service correctly, we’ve shown that facial recognition is actually a very valuable tool….”

Amazon also says they have not received “a single report of misuse by law enforcement” of its Rekognition tool. But the company says it understands why people would want guidelines in place, and to ensure that such tools are not used to violate civil right.

The company agrees that the use of this kind of technology by government agencies needs to be transparent. In its guidelines for legislation around facial recognition, Amazon is arguing that the tools should “always be used in accordance with the law, including laws that protect civil rights.”

It says that there should be “no ambiguity that existing laws” could restrict the use of this technology in some cases. Amazon is also calling for human review, especially when law enforcement agencies are using the technology.

The post says, “facial recognition should not be used to make fully automated, final decisions that might result in a violation of a person’s civil rights.” The argument is that even if the system identifies someone in a criminal investigation, the authorities should “manually review the match before making any decision to interview or detain the individual.”

Facial recognition on its own cannot be the sole determinant, according to Amazon. The company is also saying that when used law enforcement for identification, a 99% confidence score threshold is recommended.”

These scores indicate “how much trust a facial recognition system places in its own results; the higher the confidence score, the more the results can be trusted.” It also wants law enforcement agencies to be transparent in how they use facial recognition technology, which will ensure greater public confidence in such technology and their use.

Amazon is also saying that a public notice is needed when video surveillance and facial recognition technology are used together in public or commercial settings. There should be visible notices at places where video surveillance, including facial recognition, is in use.

The company is also calling for creation of a national legislative framework covering facial recognition through video and photographic monitoring on public or commercial premises. It has said there also needs to be deeper public discussion and debate about whether the existing video surveillance laws should be reviewed and updated.

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