THE CITY of Orlando's police department has said it'll stop trialling Amazon's facial recognition program following a public outcry about the "dangerous" technology.
Rekognition is a machine learning pattern-matching tool for video and photographs which Amazon says enables "real-time face recognition across tens of millions of faces and detection of up to 100 faces in challenging crowded photos."
Its use by police forces was condemned in May by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU) which revealed that Rekognition had been used by police departments in the state of Oregon and in Orlando since last year, despite the misgivings of staff and apparently with little or no public consultation.
Amazon had also been providing free consultancy in the deployment and use of its facial recognition technology.
ACLU voiced concerns about "automating mass surveillance", saying that it could allow targeting of protestors and minority groups, warning: "Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely difficult to undo."
On Monday, the City of Orlando and the Orlando Police Department said that the trial had finished. They said the pilot had been limited to using pictures of police volunteers and seeing how effectively those individuals were picked up by cameras in the city.
However, the ACLU said the limited scope of the trial did not mean it could not be expanded in the future and criticised the lack of oversight.
"No City policies or rules meaningfully restrict the Police Department from rapidly expanding the system in the near future by, for example, activating it across the City's public-facing cameras or adding it to the many body cameras Orlando police officers use every day," it said in a letter on Monday.
The Orlando authorities said they reserved the right to "partner with innovative companies to test new technology".
The other authority identified by the ACLU, The Sheriff's Department of Washington County, Oregon, said it would continue to use Rekognition, but added that it would only be deployed in criminal investigations.
"The Sheriff's Office has not, and will not, utilise this technology for mass or real-time surveillance. That use is prohibited by both Oregon state law and our own policy," said Deputy Jeff Talbot, as reported by the New York Times. µ
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