Seattle, WA – Two Democratic U.S. Congressmen sent a letter May 25 to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos claiming that the facial recognition software being tested with two police departments is racially biased.
The letter was signed by U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota and U.S Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri.
The sending of the letter coincides with ACLU efforts to prevent police from using facial recognition technology.
In the letter, the congressmen state: “A series of studies have shown that face recognition technology is consistently less accurate in identifying the faces of African Americans and women as compared to Caucasians and men. The disproportionally high arrest rates for members of the black community make the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement problematic, because it could serve to reinforce this trend.”
There were 41 civil rights organizations have called for Bezos to stop selling the facial recognition software known as Rekognition to law enforcement.
The technology uses artificial intelligence to identify people from images or videos and can identify up to 100 of the largest faces in a single image, according to CNN.
CNN reported that the letter released by the ACLU stated: “This product poses a grave threat to communities, including people of color and immigrants, and to the trust and respect Amazon has worked to build.”
The ACLU confirmed that Amazon was working with law enforcement in regards to the facial recognition technology. The two agencies are the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon and the Orlando Police Department in Florida.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said it has about 300,000 images in its jail booking photo database that it uploaded to Rekognition, according to CNN.
That sheriff’s office said that state law already prevents it from using facial recognition technology for mass or real time surveillance.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said that their test is not recording or tracking members of the public – it’s tracking the faces of police officers who volunteered.
“There’s no privacy concerns because we’re just using the pictures of Orlando police officers who’ve volunteered for the program,” he said, adding: “As far as privacy, these are all public spaces, so there are no privacy concerns.”