The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for tech giant Amazon to stop offering their "powerful and dangerous new facial recognition system" to governments and law enforcement.
The service, called "Rekognition," uses artificial intelligence to identify, track and analyze faces in real time. According to Amazon, the service can "analyze billions of images and videos daily, and requires no machine learning expertise to use."
The ACLU said in a blog post about the program: "People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government. By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, posing a particular threat to communities already unjustly targeted in the current political climate. Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely difficult to undo."
Rekognition was released in late 2016, with the sheriff's office in Washington County, Oregon, as its first customers, according to the Associated Press. The department uses the service about 20 times per day.
"We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner," Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff's office told the AP. "We want our local community to be aware of what we're doing, how we're using it to solve crimes - what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not."
The Orlando Police Department began a pilot program last year with the Rekognition technology in what police chief John Mina called a "first-of-its-kind public-private partnership."
In a presentation from a developer conference in Seoul, South Korea, Amazon's Ranju Das said, "It's about recognizing people, it's about tracking people, and then it's about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers ... can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening."
In an email to the AP, the Orlando Police Department said they are "not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time."
"The purpose of a pilot program such as this, is to address any concerns that arise as the new technology is tested," the statement said. "Any use of the system will be in accordance with current and applicable law. We are always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep the residents and visitors of Orlando safe."
ACLU calls for Amazon to stop offering facial recognition technology to governments and law enforcement