The Facial Recognition Technology Genie Is Out of the Bottle


The potential for misuse of facial recognition technology is real, but its power may be too great for many to ignore.

Brian Buntz | May 30, 2018

The ACLU is worried about a Kafka-esque near future where police and other government agencies harness the power of facial recognition technologyto identify undocumented migrants, minority activists or individuals joining public protests. As such, the organization is demanding that online retail giant Amazon stop selling “dangerous” face recognition technology to law enforcement, which could potentially help police identify individuals from footage gathered from a variety of sources, including surveillance cameras in public and retail establishments, as well as from police body cameras.

To be sure, there are surreal elements involved in this story. AI and machine learning, now a hot commodity for nearly every type of organization, are forging new alliances between the tech world and law enforcement. Amazon’s Rekognition technology is capable of seemingly superhuman feats such as identifying, nearly instantaneously, up to 100 individuals in a crowd. But, as an image ACLU obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request shows, the same technology also suggests that a white man with a mustache and long hair is a 93.53 percent match with O.J. Simpson in a test involving the Sheriff’s Office at Oregon’s Washington County.

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