Amazon Delivers Guidelines for Laws Governing Facial Recognition Technology

Amazon recently joined Microsoft in asking for regulating facial recognition software, releasing a set of guidelines as suggestions for lawmakers to consider when enacting legislation. And in the least shocking twist of events imaginable, Amazon’s suggestions seem to work very well in favor of, guess who? Amazon.

Amazon’s proposed guidelines come as a response to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in which the latter demonstrated that Rekognition, Amazon’s real-time face identification software, was severely flawed.

The ACLU had used the software to try and find matches between photos of members of Congress and mugshots. The test returned 28 positive results. Even more worrying was the fact that 40% of the false positives involved people of color, whereas the latter group represents around 20% of Congress, raising concerns that the face identification software bears racial biases.

Now the ACLU is saying that Amazon’s suggestions place the burden of proof for the misuse of the technology on the people operating the technology, absolving Amazon of any responsibility.

It must be noted that Amazon has already shipped its technology to a number of law enforcement agencies and police departments around the US. The company has also been accused of selling Rekognition to the infamous US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.

The Suggestions

Amazon said that that law enforcement should use facial recognition in a limited capacity and that results should be reviewed by a human. It also said that everyone should stick to using the 99% threshold.

No long ago, Gizmodo released a report that revealed that the Washington County Sheriff’s Department in Oregon has been using Rekognition without applying the 99% accuracy threshold recommended by Amazon. Later on, a spokesperson for the County Sheriff’s Department revealed that the department doesn’t use any threshold at all. Amazon refused to condemn that statement, and instead, it stood by the Sheriff’s office and said that their implementation was exemplary.

The company also recommended that law enforcement agencies release transparency reports about their use of the technology. It asked to set up banners that notify people when facial recognition is being employed in public places. Finally, it said that it supports a national legislative framework that would govern the use of facial recognition in a commercial setting.

The ACLU was very quick to note that none of these suggestions put any blame on Amazon.