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Orlando Stops Testing Amazon’s Facial Recognition System

Jeff Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Orlando, Florida, is currently debating whether to resume testing Amazon’s “Rekognition” facial recognition system in the city, following complaints and an expired contract with the tech company.

According to the Daily Mail, civil rights groups “raised concerns that the service could be used in ways that could violate civil liberties.”

“The City’s pilot with Amazon regarding the potential viability of their Rekognition technology ended last week,” declared Orlando’s city government and the Orlando Police Department in a statement. “Staff continues to discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date. At this time that process is still ongoing and the contract with Amazon remains expired.”

“The City of Orlando is always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep our residents and visitors safe,” they continued, adding, “Partnering with innovative companies to test new technology – while also ensuring we uphold privacy laws and in no way violate the rights of others – is critical to us as we work to further keep our community safe.”

Amazon has repeatedly come under fire for their controversial facial recognition system.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demanded Amazon to stop marketing the system to the U.S. government and police departments, while in June, a group of Amazon’s own employees wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos with the same demand.

The employees accused Bezos of “providing infrastructure” to “immoral U.S. policy,” compared the situation to IBM providing systems to the Nazis during WW2, and presented a list of politically-motivated demands, which also included a demand to sever company ties with Trump-supporting billionaire Peter Thiel’s company Palantir.

“We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights. As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” they proclaimed. “We learn from history, and we understand how IBM’s systems were employed in the 1940s to help Hitler. IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late. We will not let that happen again. The time to act is now.”

Amazon shareholders also attempted to convince Bezos to stop Amazon facial recognition contracts with law enforcement, claiming the contracts “pose a privacy threat to customers and other stakeholders across the country.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington, or like his page at Facebook.

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