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Orlando stops using Amazon Rekognition for facial analysis after privacy outcry

The ACLU warns that such surveillance systems “enable the mass location tracking of residents without criminal suspicion.”

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The city of Orlando, Florida has decided to stop using Amazon Rekognition. This decision comes after a public outcry from the ACLU and dozens of advocacy groups, according to The New York Times.

Amazon Rekognition adds image and video analysis to applications so that you can identify objects, people, text, scenes, and activities. The feature’s highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition are what caused an uproar in Orlando, where Amazon Rekognition was being tested as part of a pilot program.

With this tool, you can detect, analyze, and compare faces for a wide variety of use cases, including user verification, cataloging, people counting, and public safety.

In a letter to the community, the ACLU warned that such surveillance systems “enable the mass location tracking of residents without criminal suspicion.” With this in mind, the organization asked that the use of such systems be immediately suspended.

According to the report,

In recent weeks, various civil rights organizations had pushed Amazon and law enforcement agencies to not use the image recognition system. They expressed concerns that it could be used to track protesters or others whom authorities see as suspicious, rather than being limited to individuals who are committing crimes.

Though Orlando has decided to end its Amazon Rekognition test, it hasn’t completely closed the door to future testing. A joint statement between the City of Orlando and the local police department reads,

The City of Orlando is always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep our residents and visitors safe,” the joint statement said. “Partnering with innovative companies to test new technology — while also ensuring we uphold privacy laws and in no way violate the rights of others — is critical to us as we work to further keep our community safe.

The use of public surveillance is a challenging topic and one that has supporters on both sides. On the one hand, the tool is useful for catching criminals in the act. Still, there’s the question of privacy that must always be taken into account.

Do you think public surveillance should be accepted everywhere? Let us know your thoughts below. 

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Bryan considers himself a well-rounded techie, having written articles for MakeUseOf, KnowTechie, AppAdvice, iDownload Blog. When he's not writing, he's being a single dad and rooting for his alma mater, Penn State, or cheering on the Patriots.

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