By Aaron Kesel
Orlando’s pilot program of Amazon’s facial Rekognition software has ended with unsuccessful results after 15 months of technical issues with accuracy, bandwidth issues and controversy over the face-scanning technology, Orlando Weekly reported.
“At this time, the city was not able to dedicate the resources to the pilot to enable us to make any noticeable progress toward completing the needed configuration and testing,” Orlando’s Chief Administrative Office said in a memo to City Council, adding that the city has “no immediate plans regarding future pilots to explore this type of facial recognition technology.”
The pilot program started in December 2017 and was set to have two phases. The first phase ended on June 2018; eventually, the city started the second phase in October 2018 and has since now ended the program.
In October 2018 there were four cameras set up at the police department’s headquarters, three in downtown and one outside a community recreation center for the test.
This isn’t the first time that facial recognition camera tests were unsuccessful, and deemed to be a failure. In April of this year, the FBI failed to assuage concerns of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on its use of facial recognition technology, failing to test the accuracy of some of its facial recognition tools developed by third parties such as those programmed by state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The report further slammed the FBI for its failure to moderate its use of facial recognition software. This comes as the Bureau increases its use of the technology, currently trialing Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software.
Earlier last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California tested Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software and the program erroneously and hilariously identified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes.
According to Jake Snow, an ACLU attorney, the ACLU downloaded 25,000 mugshots from a “public source.”
The ACLU then ran the official photos of all 535 members of Congress through Rekognition, asking it to match them up with any of the mugshots—and it ended up mismatching 28 members to mug shots.
Out of those 28, the ACLU’s test flagged six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia.)
Facial recognition historically has resulted in more false positives for African-Americans.
The test came just two months after the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressing concern over the “profound negative consequences” of the use of such technology.
The ACLU is rightfully concerned that faulty facial recognition scans, particularly against citizens of color, would result in a possible fatal interaction with law enforcement. Amazon’s Rekognition has already been used by a handful of law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Because of these substantive errors, Snow said the ACLU as a whole is again calling on Congress to “enact a moratorium on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition.”
Activist Post also previously reported on another test of facial recognition technology in Britain which resulted in 35 false matches and 1 erroneous arrest. So the technology is demonstrated to be far from foolproof.
In 2018 it was reported that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were using this same Amazon Facial Rekognition technology to sift through surveillance data.
The FBI isn’t the only ones using facial recognition software. Recently, watchdog organization Big Brother Watch observed UK Metropolitan Police trials stated the technology had misidentified members of the public, including a 14-year-old black child in a school uniform who was stopped and fingerprinted by police, as potential criminals in as much as 96 percent of scans.
In eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018, the technology gave “false positives” that wrongly identified individuals as crime suspects when an individual passed through an area with a facial recognition camera.
Further, according to Big Brother Watch, police scored a 100% misidentification rate in two separate deployments at Westfield shopping centers in Stratford, London. It is a horrifying thought that this technology is now being used to harass citizens as they shop.
Amazon employees who are against the company selling facial recognition technology to the government have protested the company’s decision.
Over 20 groups of shareholders have sent several letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.
One letter was sent in June of last year signed by 20 groups of Amazon shareholders sent to Bezos, urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.
“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,” the shareholders, which reportedly include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote. “We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes.”
Another letter was sent in January 2019, organized by Open Mic, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate accountability, and was filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood both letters warned the technology poses “potential civil and human rights risks.”
Numerous civil rights organizations have also co-signed a letter demanding Amazon stop assisting government surveillance; and several members of Congress have expressed concerns about the partnerships.
Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained hundreds of pages of documents showing Amazon offering the software to law enforcement agencies across the country.
In a 2018 report, the ACLU called Amazon’s facial Rekognition project a “threat to civil liberties.”
Amazon responded by essentially shrugging off the employees’ and shareholder concerns by the head of the company’s public sector cloud computing business, stating that the team is “unwaveringly” committed to the U.S. government.
“We are unwaveringly in support of our law enforcement, defense and intelligence community,” Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, said July 20th at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, FedScoop reported.
Now, police seem to be moving towards using Amazon’s smart surveillance system, Ring, instead of using the faulty Rekognition software which has been known to have numerous problems.
Both of those are not good concepts for our future and are worrying prospects, which is why many privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft (which also markets its own facial recognition system) have all raised concerns over the technology. They all point to the obvious issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement. But the bigger issue is one that Jay Stanley an attorney at ACLU highlighted a full-blown police state.
“We don’t want to live in a world where government bureaucrats can enter in your name into a database and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual, and medical associations and activities are,” Jay Stanley, an attorney with ACLU, told BuzzFeed News about the use of facial recognition cameras in retail stores. “And we don’t want a world in which people are being stopped and hassled by authorities because they bear resemblance to some scary character.” (Source)
A national survey of 3,151 U.S. adults in December, found only one in four Americans believe the federal government should strictly limit the use of facial recognition biometrics technology.
The survey also indicates Americans are more likely to support a trade-off to their own privacy caused by biometric technology if it benefits law enforcement, reduces shoplifting or speeds up airport security lines.
Only 18 percent of those polled stated they agreed with strict limitations on facial recognition tech if it comes at the expense of public safety, compared to 55 percent who disagreed with such limitations.
However, a poll from the Brookings Institution in September 2018 contradicts that and found half of Americans favored limitations of the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, while 42 percent felt it invaded personal privacy rights.
San Francisco, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts have both banned facial recognition from their cities, citing concerns about the safety and accuracy of the software. Now Orlando, Florida has ended its trial of Amazon’s Rekognition software, it’s time for the rest of America to follow suit!
Already, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has signaled it will investigate NSA Surveillance and Facial Rekognition.
Also Read From Activist Post: Police Departments Begin Dumping Faulty Pre-Crime A.I. Programs
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