The Surveillance Economy and Its Discontents | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

The Surveillance Economy and Its Discontents

In 2016, Amazon Web Services released Rekognition, a service that lets users analyze digital imagery in order to identify objects, including faces, based on a machine-learning algorithm.

The company has touted uses for this product that include identifying triggering content in images, determining emotions in an image, cashier-less grocery stores (which they have implemented in Amazon Go) — and, most worrisome, “public safety.”

The implications of this technology are eerily dystopian. The software is designed to identify up to 100 faces in an image or video, and can identify the emotions and actions of subjects. In the hands of the police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the National Security Agency (NSA), this poses an existential risk to privacy, oppressed groups, left organizations and any other targeted person.

And the unfortunate truth is that it is already being licensed to police departments. As an ACLU report reveals, police departments in Orlando, Florida, and Washington County, Oregon, are already using it. If legal restrictions are overcome, this could easily be licensed to a company like Axon to be used in police body cameras in numerous cities.

Even scarier, consider if ICE were able to license this technology. It could use it to hunt down any undocumented immigrant it has a photo of. Even worse, it could cross-list any photo to which it has access against a database of identification images — and mark anyone who isn’t in its system for tracking and detention.

The ACLU only listed agencies to which it submitted public records requests. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has specially tailored contracts for federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, and many others.