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Amazon “Rekognition” a boom or a curse?

Amazon, the leading internet retailer across the globe, has forayed into surveillance business as well. The one stop shopping destination for the people across the globe has recently tied up with the law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando in providing facial recognition tool. The company claims that its face recognition software named Rekogntion can help in detecting, analysing and comparing faces from a larger segment of user verifications. The company claimed that it can help in eradiating the crime by putting the criminals behind the bars; as its Rekognition can suspect’s criminals involved in any kind of criminal activity by identifying their photos and videos.

The company offers the services to anyone and everyone through its giant cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services. Through Rekognition the company appealed to identify up to 100 people in a single picture, a very effective tool to identify criminal in large crowds, like a protest, ralley, strike at swarming places such as crowded departmental stores, metro stations, markets etc.

The Orlando Police Department in Florida has asked Amazon to provide its surveillance service for helping solving criminal cases. According to a report published in GovTech in 2017, the sheiff’s department in Washington Country, Oregon has forayed into a contract with Amazon under which the latter will provide a surveillance excess of any crime captured on cameras to the former. According to a report stated by Chris Adzima (a senior IT analyst with the country), the government database contained approximately 300,000 pictures of 200,000 people; which is now operated by Amazon Rekognition system to keep a watch on the activities which can hamper the peace and harmony in the country. So this service might help in stopping the criminal activities up to some extents; as it will easily detect the person with criminal mind-set even in a crowd as well.

It is rightly said the technology has its advantages and disadvantages as well. Recently the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and a group of other civil liberties and social justice organizations have asked Amazon to immediately stop allowing its face recognition service named Rekognition to the police and government agencies. It is debated that this service will lead to a mass surveillance of the people who are not involved in any criminal activities at all. No innocent citizen will prefer to be watched by the government all the time. The service is posing a great threat to communities (especially smaller in size) including their colour and immigrants, who have come from outside, by showing them as criminals which can worsen the political conditions in the country. The study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that the gender of darker-skinned women was misidentified several times by face recognition software. ACLU believes that Amazon is entering into surveillance market without much knowledge of it with a motive to earn profits.

It is not that the Amazon is providing image recognition service for the first time; it already exists in the society. There are some unknown security providers who are offering these services to the police, but Amazon is well known company who is activity marketing this new face recognition service. On defending the company, one of the unnamed spokesperson of Amazon web services said the company is abiding the set rules and regulations and is offering a general image recognition technology. The technology helps in identifying people, objects and activities; many amusement parks have used the service in finding the lost children of their customers.

The advantages of face recognition far exceed the limited disadvantages attached to it. It does not necessarily means that the people identified in facial recognition system are the criminals only. According to the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law estimations, there are more than 130 million American youth in facial recognition databases which can be considered in solving the criminal cases. The Department of Homeland Security is using this service in locating foreign visitors at airports who are staying in the country without the valid visas. Recently, Orlando Police Chief- John Mina said that this is just a testing project and no civilian has been involved in it so far. He further added that the government will never use this technology in tracking innocent civilians, immigrants, activists, or people of different colour.

The City of Orlando is exploring Amazon’s face and video recognition to safeguard the interest of people. They are finding the best ways to increase the safety of people and removing the crime from the city.

So this initiative by Amazon might help in solving the criminal cases in the country. It is already an established company with not requiring any extra money from some unlawful deals.