A group of eight lawmakers from US Democratic Party have demand details from online retailer Amazon about its recently launched facial recognition software called Rekognition. They expressed concerns about user privacy during use of the software which has already been used by a few police departments. The lawmakers wrote in their complaint letter that the product has accuracy issues and places burdens on communities of colors which could in the long run stifle the right of American citizens to exercise the First Amendment in public. They demanded greater transparency about the software with regard to accuracy, biases and in-built protection measures.
The letter was signed by Senator Edward Markely, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Rep. Luis Gutiereez, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Paramila Jayapal, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. John Lewis. These enquiries were made due to media revelations that Amazon was marketing this product to law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials without proper precautions. The reports suggested that law enforcement officials have been using cameras to record videos of bystanders in various locations and are scanning that data using Amazon servers for facial recognition analysis. These pilot programs lack policy guidelines and were carried out without any direct training by Amazon.
After the report several shareholders of Amazon along with their employees and activists have voiced concern about the Rekognition technology saying that it could be a privacy threat. Congress members have sent letters of concern to Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos requesting for greater transparency and clarity about the software. But till date no information has been shared by Amazon which prompted lawmakers to send out a formal request and ask for a response before 13th December. Even though there is a public outcry over use of this technology by police department of Orlando it has not deterred them from testing the technology to scan faces of people moving through different sections of the city for possible matches with recognizable criminals faces.