After an outcry over reports that law enforcement agencies are using facial recognition technology marketed by Amazon to profile people in real time, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a letter claiming that Amazon’s Rekognition technology was “patriotic and can benefit society.”
“Facial recognition technology has many beneficial uses for society, even when used by the government. Even the use-case that privacy advocates are crying wolf over, facial recognition systems integrated with police body cameras, can benefit society.”
The ITIF went on to claim that police body cameras hold “law enforcement accountable and there is no reason to suggest the same cannot be true for facial recognition technology.”
Let’s discuss ITIF’s claim that body cameras hold police accountable.
A 2017 article in Ars Technica reveals that body camera footage is generally not available to the public.
“Body cam footage is routinely turned over to defense attorneys as part of the pre-trial discovery process. But when it comes to supplying the public with footage, there’s a hodgepodge patchwork of state laws and local laws nationwide. And the general default is that the footage is not a public record.”
A similar article in the Verge warns everyone that police departments are trying to make body camera footage a state secret. A recent article in LifeHacker reveals that police body camera footage is difficult to procure and can cost upwards of $18,000.
ITIF’s allegation that “body cameras help protect communities of color” is also not true.
The reality is Amazon’s Rekognition cameras won’t hold police accountable any more than body cameras do.
ITIF also clams privacy activists are “demonizing the technology and trying to stop a company from selling it,” which is ironic, coming from a foundation with a history of demonizing people and organizations that oppose smart devices and surveillance.
In 2014 the ITIF created the ‘Luddite Awards’ which demonized people and organizations opposed to smart devices and surveillance. In 2015 they demonized Stephen Hawking for opposing killer robots and governor Jerry Brown for opposing RFID tags in drivers licenses.
The truth is, privacy activists are upset that Amazon is giving police sweetheart deals to spy on everyone. And law enforcement’s claim that facial recognition is “Conserving The Peace Through Values Driven Service” is one of the biggest lies of 2018. (Click here to find out more.)
ITIF’s claims of being an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute think tank would be laughable if they didn’t have so much influence in Washington.
ITIF’s former Director, William Bonvillian has close ties to DHS and no, I did not make that name up. Their Board of Directors, staff and affiliated experts reads like a who’s who of power players in D.C.
Does anyone else find it ironic that an organization formerly led by a man called ‘Bonvillian’ claims police facial recognition can benefit society? (Can you say Dr. Evil, anyone?)
Amazon’s Facial Rekognition Is Not “Patriotic”
According to the ITIF, “Working with the government and making government functions more efficient and effective should be seen as patriotic. Only by de-stigmatizing the technology can we have a constructive conversation and adequately capture its benefits.”
ITIF’s claim that Amazon’s Rekognition is “Patriotic” is absurd.
Let me make this perfectly clear, police facial recognition is NOT patriotic and WILL be used to create secret watch lists.
Amazon’s claim that the public need not worry about police abusing Rekognition because they haven’t done so yet is also ludicrous.
“Each organization choosing to employ technology must act responsibly or risk legal penalties and public condemnation. AWS takes its responsibilities seriously. But we believe it is the wrong approach to impose a ban on promising new technologies because they might be used by bad actors for nefarious purposes in the future.”
If history is any indicator, no amount of “public condemnation” is going to stop law enforcement from abusing their surveillance powers.