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Congress Not Pleased With Amazon Facial Recognition Answers

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 03, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For fans of facial recognition, and other tech that utilizes biometrics, the recent letter sent by some House reps to Amazon will certainly be of interest.

Apparently, Congress wasn't too pleased about how badly Amazon got put on blast by the ACLU. And they are asking Amazon to answers some more questions about their "Rekognition" software (yes with a "k") that, in a test conducted by the ACLU, misidentified Congress members as criminals when their photos were input into the database. While there might be some comedy in that example, the potential real-life impacts of biometric misidentifications are, and can be, devastating.

Recognizing Reasonable

The letter from Congress specifically explains, at the outset, that these representatives believe facial recognition isn't ready to be used by law enforcement. They write:

"Facial recognition may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials ... However, at this time, we have serious concerns ..."

Those concerns include accuracy, whether there is a disproportionate burden on communities of color, and how the tech may stifle Americans wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Recognizing Questions

The letter concludes by asking a series of long questions that cover the above issues, both in general and specifically. Additionally, the inquires seek information about Amazon's data retention policies, as well as their policies relating to abuses of their facial recognition technology.

Significantly, one question specifically asks if the technology has been connected to any real time surveillance cameras operated by law enforcement, such as body-cameras or other public-facing cameras (like what you see in the movies and on TV in both modern fictional cop shows and science fiction).

The letter provides a response deadline of December 13, and at this time, it is unclear (and likely unlikely) they'll get the answers they seek.

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