Amazon Facial Recognition: Hit Pause for One Year. Is the Button Wired Up?

June 11, 2020

Quite a bit of interest in the announcement from the online bookstore about facial recognition. The story appeared in Dayone (that’s the Amazon official blog). The story’s title was “We Are Implementing a One Year Moratorium on Police Use of Rekognition.” Like IBM’s “we’re not doing facial recognition” announcement, the coverage of the news seems to have ignored some nuances.

First, Amazon has been investing like a wealth crazed MBA on Wall Street to beef up its policeware capabilities. Because bad actors are often humans, the technology required to identify these humans is important. And facial recognition and other types of policeware are expensive to develop. Thus, the word “moratorium” is important.

Second, some of the activities in which the online bookstore is engaged are covered by different types of agreements, contracts, and statements of work. As dramatic and newsy are “From this day forward” statements are, certain projects are likely to continue. Extrication from an underway government project is not just pushing the button. That button has to be connected to the operative system in order to work. Think of this as a dial on a thermostat in a hotel room. The guest thinks the dial works, but the device is a psychological play so the guest “thinks” he or she is in control. Ho, ho, ho.

Third, with infrastructure in place and data being processed, indexed, and stored, government entities have legal tools to obtain access to certain information. Whether one “stops” or not, the legal mechanisms are often deaf to such statements, “We don’t do this anymore.” That works exactly how often?

Net net: DarkCyber believes that more information about the precise meaning of moratorium in the context of Amazon’s usage of the word. Discarding a substantive investment? Maybe. Maybe not.

Stephen E Arnold, June 11, 2020


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