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Facial Recognition Tech Flags 26 California Lawmakers as Criminals

A recent test run of facial recognition software wrongly matched 26 California legislators with criminal mug shots, a mishap that is rightfully raising concerns about law enforcement’s use of the technology.
The Los Angeles Times reported the American Civil Liberties Union ran the test using a common face-scanning program.
The software, Amazon’s “Rekognition,” also erroneously matched 28 members of the U.S. Congress to mug shots, according to a the ACLU.
Out of concern facial recognition technology is both unreliable and could have grave consequences for people’s constitutional rights, Democratic California Assemblyman Phil Ting has introduced legislation banning its use on police body cameras in The Golden State.
“The software clearly is not ready for use in a law enforcement capacity,” Ting told The Times. “These mistakes, we can kind of chuckle at it, but if you get arrested and it’s on your record, it can be hard to get housing, get a job. It has real impacts.”
The ACLU backs the bill.
ACLU attorney Jacob Snow reported earlier this summer that false matches using “Rekognition” disproportionately impacted people of color.
Among the members of Congress erroneously matched to a mug shot was Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon.
“These dangers are why Amazon employees, shareholders, a coalition of nearly 70 civil rights groups, over 400 members of the academic community, and more than 150,000 members of the public have already spoken up to demand that Amazon stop providing face surveillance to the government,” Snow wrote.
Amazon told The Times that it could not immediately comment on the most recent test of its Rekogition software, but disputed the ACLU’s previous results regarding members of Congress.
“In its developer guide, Amazon recommends using a 99 percent confidence threshold when matching faces, and criticized the ACLU for using a lesser bar — the factory setting for the software, according to Matt Cagle, an attorney with the Northern California chapter of the ACLU — when testing it,” The Times reported.
According to The New York Times, Amazon came under pressure from shareholders during the company’s annual meeting in May.
They called for Amazon to prohibit sales of its facial recognition software to government agencies.
The shareholders also sought an independent study to examine the threat Rekognition potentially poses to civil rights and the company’s finances.
Techcrunch.com reported the two proposals were ultimately voted down.
We are entering an entirely new era with the possibility of the kind of constant government surveillance foreseen by George Orwell in his novel “1984.”
The ACLU and California Democrats are right on this one.
It is incumbent upon all liberty-loving people to oppose such an intrusion into Americans’ private lives.

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