Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

Amazon is selling its face-recognition tech to police departments

Image-recognition software that Amazon developed for its cloud platform is being sold to police departments around the US, according to documents disclosed by the American Civil Liberties Union today.

The news: Amazon released the computer vision system, called Rekognition, in late 2016. Soon after that, the company started marketing it to police departments as a tool to fight crime, according to the New York Times. The Orlando Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon were two early customers.

The argument: The ACLU and two dozen other civil rights organizations published an open letter addressed to Jeff Bezos asking Amazon to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement groups. The letter says that the system is “primed for abuse in the hands of governments” and could be used to track protesters instead of catching criminals.

Context: Surveillance laws have not kept up with changing technology, leaving companies mostly on their own to figure out where to draw the line in their efforts to turn new AI tools into profitable lines of business. But as Google recently found out when employees protested its work with the Department of Defense, pressure is mounting for tech companies to tread carefully in how they choose to deploy cutting-edge AI. 

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Roomba testers feel misled after intimate images ended up on Facebook

An MIT Technology Review investigation recently revealed how images of a minor and a tester on the toilet ended up on social media. iRobot said it had consent to collect this kind of data from inside homes—but participants say otherwise.

How to spot AI-generated text

The internet is increasingly awash with text written by AI software. We need new tools to detect it.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.