'Privacy advocates are responding with alarm to Amazon’s claim this week that the controversial cloud-based facial recognition system the company markets to law enforcement agencies can now detect “fear” in the people it targets.
“Amazon is going to get someone killed by recklessly marketing this dangerous and invasive surveillance technology to governments,” warned Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, in a statement Wednesday.
Amazon Web Services detailed new updates to its system—called Rekognition—in an announcement Monday:
With this release, we have further improved the accuracy of gender identification. In addition, we have improved accuracy for emotion detection (for all 7 emotions: ‘Happy’, ‘Sad’, ‘Angry’, ‘Surprised’, ‘Disgusted’, ‘Calm’, and ‘Confused’) and added a new emotion: ‘Fear’. Lastly, we have improved age range estimation accuracy; you also get narrower age ranges across most age groups.
Pointing to research on the technology conducted by the ACLU and others, Fight for the Future’s Greer said that “facial recognition already automates and exacerbates police abuse, profiling, and discrimination.”
“Now Amazon is setting us on a path where armed government agents could make split second judgements based on a flawed algorithm’s cold testimony. Innocent people could be detained, deported, or falsely imprisoned because a computer decided they looked afraid when being questioned by authorities,” she warned. “The dystopian surveillance state of our nightmares is being built in plain sight—by a profit-hungry corporation eager to cozy up to governments around the world.”
VICE reported that “despite Amazon’s bold claims, the efficacy of emotion recognition is in dispute. A recent study reviewing over 1,000 academic papers on emotion recognition found that the technique is deeply flawed—there just isn’t a strong enough correlation between facial expressions and actual human emotions, and common methods for training algorithms to spot emotions present a host of other problems.”
Read more: Amazon’s Facial Recognition Technology Can Now Detect Fear in People: Claim