Amazon Adds Voice to Calls for Regulation of Facial Recognition

Amazon Adds Voice to Calls for Regulation of Facial Recognition

Amazon is now calling for government regulation of facial recognition technology, even as it defends sales of its own such technology to law enforcement authorities.

In a new post on the Amazon Web Services Machine Learning blog, the company’s VP of Global Public Policy, Michael Punke, writes, “We support the calls for an appropriate national legislative framework that protects individual civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their use of facial recognition technology.” Such calls have increasingly come from inside the house, so to speak, with competitors like Microsoft calling for government intervention to prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ in the facial recognition industry.

Many of those calls have come in the wake of the controversy that erupted last year after revelations that Amazon had sold its Rekognition computer vision system to police authorities for use in public surveillance. The company has defended this practice on the grounds that its facial recognition technology can be a useful tool in the fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and in his new blog post AWS’s Punke adds that the company has “not received a single report of misuse by law enforcement.”

Nevertheless, Punke adds, “we understand why people want there to be oversight and guidelines put in place to make sure facial recognition technology cannot be used to discriminate,” and proceeds to lay out five proposed guidelines for the responsible use of facial recognition technology:

  • “Facial recognition should always be used in accordance with the law, including laws that protect civil rights.”
  • “When facial recognition technology is used in law enforcement, human review is a necessary component to ensure that the use of a prediction to make a decision does not violate civil rights.”
  • “When facial recognition technology is used by law enforcement for identification, or in a way that could threaten civil liberties, a 99% confidence score threshold is recommended.”
  • “Law enforcement agencies should be transparent in how they use facial recognition technology.”
  • “There should be notice when video surveillance and facial recognition technology are used together in public or commercial settings.”

The guidelines take the use of facial recognition technology by government and police authorities as a given – a position that some privacy and civil rights advocates would likely oppose – while also putting the onus on legislators to figure out what kinds of uses for this technology are and aren’t appropriate. In that sense, they could offer an important middle ground in the ongoing discourse about contemporary facial recognition technology, with one of the staunchest proponents of selling this tech to government acknowledging that ethical concerns are in play.

Source: AWS Machine Learning Blog