Few technologies are more controversial and divisive as facial recognition. Customers have come to rely on it to log into their phones and tablets, police and government agencies are increasingly using it to identify suspects and privacy advocates decry it as an unconstitutional invasion of people’s rights.
Amazon has established itself as a leader in the field of facial recognition with its Rekognition software. While the software is widely used by police, as well as government agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it has not escaped controversy. The ACLU has twice used Rekognition on photos of politicians, each time with dozens of false matches. In both instances, however, Amazon responded by pointing out that the ACLU left the confidence setting at the default 80 percent threshold, instead of the 99 percent threshold Amazon recommends for law enforcement.
Nonetheless, Amazon can see the writing on the wall and knows it’s only a matter of time before facial recognition is regulated. Needless to say, it’s in Amazon’s best interests for those regulations to favor companies who profit off of the technology. To that end, Vox is reporting that Amazon is drafting laws to regulate facial recognition, which they plan on pitching to lawmakers.
According to Vox, CEO Jeff Bezos told reporters that the company’s “public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations; it makes a lot of sense to regulate that.
“It’s a perfect example of something that has really positive uses, so you don’t want to put the brakes on it. But, at the same time, there’s also potential for abuses of that kind of technology, so you do want regulations. It’s a classic dual-use kind of technology.”
While skeptics are understandably concerned that Amazon’s foray into legislation may do little to nothing to protect the rights of everyday citizens, only time will tell if Amazon’s efforts are sincere or just another step toward a more Orwellian outcome.