A COALITION of more than 85 civil and human rights groups have sent letters to Amazon, Google and Microsoft asking them not to flog facial recognition software to the US government.
"We are at a crossroads with face surveillance, and the choices made by these companies now will determine whether the next generation will have to fear being tracked by the government for attending a protest, going to their place of worship, or simply living their lives," said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in California.
ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild Chapters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation were amongst those groups that sent the letter.
The groups warned that placing this technology in the hands of the government "threatens the safety of community members and will also undermine public trust."
They fear that the technology will be used by the government to enhance mass surveillance, claiming it "gives the government new power to target and single out immigrants, religious minorities and people of colour in our communities."
Microsoft and Google have already addressed the concerns raised over facial recognition. Google announced in December that it will not sell general-purpose facial recognition software until solutions have been found for the technology's downsides, while Microsoft's president Brad Smith recently spoke in support of government regulation for the technology.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has acknowledged the technology's downsides but added that his company had no intention of ending collaboration with government agencies.
Amazon has previously been criticised for its willingness to profit on technologies that could potentially enhance surveillance.
The FBI recently piloted Amazon's software Rekognition which could help agents sifting through mountains of surveillance footage to identify individuals. The company has also patented a tool that uses facial recognition in smart doorbells to alert police about potential criminals. µ
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