Amazon calls for ‘legislative framework’ for facial ID tech

Amazon has joined the call for transparency in the use of facial ID / facial recognition software by law enforcement agencies and said it would support an “appropriate” legislative framework governing the technology to protect civil rights.

The company’s comments come amid increased scrutiny from researchers, lawmakers and civil liberties groups.

In a blog post published last Thursday (Feb.7th), Michael Punke, VP of public policy at AWS, said: “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.”

Public notice

AWS said agencies should inform the public when facial recognition and video surveillance are used together in public or commercial setting, such as shopping centres or restaurants.

“Our view is that facial recognition technology and video/photo surveillance should be covered by the same notice framework,” he wrote.

Last month, Microsoft president Brad Smith also called for the regulation of facial-recognition technology, to reduce potential bias and invasions of peoples’ privacy.

In a blog post on the company’s website, Mr. Smith wrote: “We believe it’s important for governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology. The facial recognition genie, so to speak, is just emerging from the bottle.

“Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues. By that time, these challenges will be much more difficult to bottle back up,” he added.

Racial bias

Despite concerns surrounding the technology, Punke said he, too, believes that governments need to eliminate racial bias in facial recognition software.

“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,” he said. “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.”

He concluded that facial recognition should not be banned or condemned because of its potential misuse.

“Instead there should be open, honest, and earnest dialogue among all parties involved to ensure that the technology is applied appropriately and is continuously enhanced,” he noted.
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The company said it is engaging with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology on the possibility of standardised accuracy tests for facial recognition technology, but said it is not yet possible for third parties to download its algorithms for testing purposes.
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