Report: Amazon Facial Recognition Tools Mistakenly Identifies Criminals as Celebrities


According to a recent report, Amazon’s facial recognition tool has mistakenly identified criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted List as famous celebrities.

A report from BuzzFeed News alleges that Amazon’s celebrity facial recognition tool has been identifying some criminals listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List as famous celebrities. BuzzFeed ran 507 photos of criminals from the most wanted list and 3,248 photos from the National Insitute of Standards and Technology’s mugshot identification database through Amazon’s celebrity recognition tool, a feature designed to identify celebrities from various photos, for example matching a photo of actor Johnny Depp to a photo of him as the famous Pirates of the Carribean character Jack Sparrow.

According to BuzzFeed, the tool identified 17 criminals from the most wanted list as celebrities with a 95-100 percent confidence rating. The celebrities matched to inmates included Jerry Garcia, actor Kim Coates and painter Bob Ross. The database also identified the mugshot of an arrested black man as a photo of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with a confidence level of 96 percent.

Amazon reportedly replied to a request for comment from BuzzFeed by stating that their celebrity recognition tool is different from their broader facial recognition platform, Rekognition, which Amazon claims would not have returned the same results. The celebrity facial recognition tool was designed for entertainment, Amazon claimed, and said that it was not a facial recognition system but rather a “classification” system.

A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services said in a statement to The Hill: “As we shared with Buzzfeed, this is a silly article that seems more designed to drive clicks than to educate people who use machine learning.” Amazon stated that their celebrity “detection model” is trained to recognize celebrities that “frequently disguise themselves to look like others (including criminals),” adding it was also “optimized to return celebrity matches.”

The company added that to use the tool “for anything other than trying to detect celebrities is just silly,” adding that “It’s certainly absurd for doing anything where the integrity of the match is critical like in law enforcement.”

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan_ or email him at


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