Amazon’s Facial Recognition Linked the Faces of 28 Members of Congress to Mugshots
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has even bigger concerns with Amazon’s Rekognition technology after it found the tech matched 28 members of Congress to criminal mugshots.
In a recent test, the ACLU scanned every Congress member’s official photo and found that 28 of them, including Republicans and Democrats and men and women, were incorrectly matched to 28 mugshots. According to the ACLU, a disproportionate share of the mismatches were on people of color. Six members of the Congressional Black Caucus were mismatched.
Amazon’s Rekognition technology has been used in a variety of settings to help people identify individuals with a face scan. The ACLU, among many civil groups, is especially concerned with law enforcement’s use of Rekognition and the implications that can have in falsely identifying people and charging them with crimes. The ACLU said in a blog post announcing the findings of its test that Amazon is trying to sell its technology to law enforcement departments by promising to “identify up to 100 faces in a single image, track people in real time through surveillance cameras, and scan footage from body cameras.”
“Face surveillance also threatens to chill First Amendment-protected activity like engaging in protest or practicing religion, and it can be used to subject immigrants to further abuse from the government,” the ACLU added.
In a statement to Fortune, an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said that the company has already witnessed ways in which its technology can “materially benefit both society and organizations.” The spokesperson pointed to it being used to address human trafficking and child exploitation.
The spokesperson added that the ACLU’s tests could have improved with best practices that set “confidence thresholds” that Rekognition will actually find a match. Amazon also said that it doesn’t tell its customers to only rely on Rekognition to make a determination on someone.
“Amazon Rekognition is almost exclusively used to help narrow the field and allow humans to expeditiously review and consider options using their judgement (and not to make fully autonomous decisions), where it can help find lost children, restrict human trafficking, or prevent crimes,” the spokesperson said.
Still, the ACLU believes the results are clear. It called on Congress to place “a moratorium on law enforcement use of face recognition.”