Amazon criticised for racist facial recognition and surveillance technology

  • Tech giant Amazon's announcement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked backlash over its facial recognition tech that adversely targets black people.

    As countless major tech brands across the world pledge their support for the Black Lives Matter message, tech giant Amazon has been criticised for publicly supporting the movement despite still selling facial recognition technology that's been shown to mis-identify black people at an alarming rate.

    Amazon has been getting into the surveillance game for several years, having sold hundreds of thousand of the Amazon Ring, a video doorbell that also doubles as a security camera when you're away from the house. Back in November, documents from Amazon reportedly indicated that the firm was planning to integrate facial recognition and AI-based image recognition into the Ring system.

    The company's facial recognition technology, Rekognition, has been the subject of a great deal of controversy. An ACLU study in 2018 showed that it disproportionately mis-identifies black people. When given photos of members of Congress in the US, it mismatched several to mugshots of criminals in a US crime database, with over 40% of the mismatches being people of colour despite them making up only 20% of the photos used.

    The tech has been used by law enforcement throughout the US, and the list of police departments employing the tech isn't publicly available. Amazon has been called on to discontinue the tech until the systematic racial bias in it can be solved, and to stop supplying the faulty facial recognition technology to US police departments.

    Source: The Intercept, Forbes, NY Times, Wired

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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