AI Experts Tell Amazon To Stop Selling Facial Recognition Systems To Police

On Wednesday some prominent AI experts signed an open letter directed at Amazon recommending it to stop selling its facial recognition, “Rekognition “ API to law enforcement agencies.Their concerns were based around the potential biases the software had regarding women and ethnic minorities.

The letter reached 55 signatures and had significant evidence to back up it concerns, including an MIT study from last year that suggests the “Rekognition “ software has an error rate of 31% when it came to classifying women of colour. The letter, titled ‘On Recent Research Auditing Commercial Facial Analysis Technology‘ , called for the government to regulate the flawed technology.

However, the study by the economist below shows the increasing value of facial recognition revenue is increasing significantly year on year and due to increase for many years to come, raising the question whether Amazon will ignore the letter to continue being a large player in the growing market :

The letter argues:

There are currently no laws in place to audit Rekognition’s use, Amazon has not disclosed who the customers are, nor what the error rates are across different intersectional demographics. How can we then ensure that this tool is not improperly being used?

Last year Amazon faced the same demands, due to the release of the MIT study, however Matthew Wood, the companies “General Manager of Artificial Intelligence”, dismissed it saying it was misleading and its conclusions were incorrect regarding the software’s inaccuracy. This new open letter argues why these points are incorrect and that Amazon distorted the technical details of the study.

When Microsoft came under the same pressures last year they responded by increasing the tools accuracy and pushed for legislation in Washington State to increase transparency around the use of facial recognition technologies. So far Amazon hasn’t given any comments adding to the lack of transparency the company has shown

Ethics, AmazonArturo Dezon