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article imageAmazon facial recognition software may be racially biased

By Tim Sandle     Dec 1, 2018 in Technology
The use of facial recognition technology is becoming more common, ostensibly used by security firms for security purposes. There are concerns that some forms of software contain biases, a charge leveled against Amazon's version - Rekognition.
Amazon Rekognition is based on highly scalable, deep learning technology, as developed by Amazon’s computer vision scientists. The system is used to analyze billions of images and videos daily. Rekognition enables the user to find similar faces in a large collection of images. The user can also create an index of faces detected in within an image set.
While the software is advanced, it may not be a foolproof as the tech giant claims. Some U.S. lawmakers are concerned about in-built bias in the software, especially in relation to ethnicity. The lawmakers are concerned by Amazon's silence on the matter when critical questions have been pitched about the reliability of the software.
A letter has been issued by eight U.S. lawmakers, including Senators Edward Markey and Reps. John Lewis and Judy Chu. The letter requests that Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos explain how the company’s technology works and where it will be used.
According to Tech Crunch, there is a particular concern over Amazon actively marketing its biometric technology to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The senators are also concerned about accuracy issues with the facial recognition technology, which they feel could result in racial bias and this would consequently harm U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights to free expression.
U.S. politician Jimmy Gomez explained to BuzzFeed News: “If there’s a problem with this technology, it could have a profound impact on livelihoods and lives. There are no checks or balances on the tech that’s coming out- and this is in the hands of law enforcement.”
The senators have also asked whether Amazon conducts audits of how customers, particularly law enforcement agencies, use the technology. They also wish to know which U.S. government customers are using the system.
Amazon's software has already caused controversy. Orlando's police started using Amazon's controversial Rekognition facial detection system, a process that was not voluntarily shared by the police department. This led to protests over data privacy, as covered by Digital Journal, organized by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In related facial recognition news, Singapore is considering fixing surveillance cameras to the top of over 100,000 lampposts. The aim is to assist authorities with picking out and recognizing faces in crowds across the island-state. See: "Singapore to test facial recognition on lampposts."
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