Amazon’s Recognition software lets cops track faces: Here’s what you need to know

Amazon’s Recognition software lets cops track faces: Here’s what you need to know

Amazon Rekognition is the company’s effort to create software that can identify anything it’s looking at — most notably faces.


Business organizations and, yes, law enforcement agencies are already licensing that software for their own use. That means that you don’t need to use Facebook or buy a face-scanning iPhone or a fancy video doorbell from Google-owned Nest or Amazon-owned Ring in order for facial recognition to be a part of your everyday life. With Rekognition, maybe it already is.

And maybe you aren’t OK with that. Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU have already raised concerns about the speedy adoption of facial recognition tech among US law enforcement agencies and the potential for its abuse, particularly against immigrants and people of color. Many — including some of Amazon’s own employees and shareholders — want the company to hit the brakes.

The controversy caught the attention of Congress last year, and now, with the Senate recently proposing a bill that would limit businesses from collecting and tracking facial recognition data without consent, it seems that Rekognition might be in for a reckoning.

All of which is to say that it’s a good time to dive in and get a better understanding of what Rekognition is, how it works and what it’s being used for.

What exactly does Amazon Rekognition do?

Glad you asked. Let’s start by looking at what Amazon says:

“Amazon Rekognition makes it easy to add image and video analysis to your applications. You just provide an image or video to the Rekognition API, and the service can identify objects, people, text, scenes and activities. It can detect any inappropriate content as well.

“Amazon Rekognition also provides highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition. You can detect, analyze and compare faces for a wide variety of use cases, including user verification, cataloging, people counting and public safety.”

Like a lot of what Amazon is up to these days, Rekognition centers on artificial intelligence and machine learning. If Alexa is Amazon’s effort to give AI ears and a voice, then Rekognition could be seen as the company’s effort to give AI a sense of sight and the intelligence to recognize what it’s looking at. The difference is that Alexa is built for consumers like you and me, while Rekognition is an enterprise offering intended for businesses and organizations.

All of that sounds simple enough, right? It’s image- and face-detecting software that developers can license from Amazon for their own applications. But start thinking about the ways that businesses and organizations might be putting Rekognition to use — and some of the ways that they might in the future — and things get more complicated.

How does Amazon Rekognition work?

Amazon says that its Rekognition software is based on deep learning technology developed by computer vision scientists. It’s actually two separate software tools, or API sets: Amazon Rekognition Image, which analyzes images, and Amazon Rekognition Video, which analyzes video.

Like other image recognition applications, Rekognition looks for common structural identifiers called “landmarks” in whatever it’s looking at. With an apple, that might be the shape and color of the fruit, along with characteristics like the stem. With a face, it’s the shape of the features and the distance between them.

Once it’s scanned the evidence, the software assesses how confident it is that it knows what it’s looking at. That confidence variable acts as a threshold for declaring a match — one Rekognition user could say that anything above 75 percent confident is good enough to label as a positive match, while another user with a more high-stakes application might want to set the number at 99. The higher the confidence level, the more certain the software needs to be in order to declare a match.

A lot of that confidence is dependent on the quality and angle of the image in question, but software like this that’s programmed to recognize what it’s looking at has come a long way in recent years. That’s thanks in no small part to intense research interest from the titans of tech, not just Amazon, but Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others.

“Rekognition is always learning from new data, and we’re continually adding new labels and facial recognition features to the service,” Amazon says.

With facial recognition, it’s important to note that Amazon doesn’t keep its own database of faces to match against. Instead, it’s up to the user to provide a “face collection” that they own and manage. For a photo storage service, that face collection could be the photos that users upload. For a law enforcement agency, the face collection could be an existing database of mugshots.

What does Amazon Rekognition cost?

Companies don’t pay an upfront cost to use Rekognition. They pay as they go based on how much they use it.

“With Amazon Rekognition, you pay for the images and videos you analyze and the face metadata that you store,” the company explains, adding that customers can analyze 5,000 images and 1,000 minutes of video per month for free during their first year using the service.

Rates after that vary based on region, but in the US, Rekognition customers pay 10 cents for each minute of video analyzed and $1 for every 1,000 images processed. Customers also pay to store the metadata from images and videos they analyze within Amazon’s servers. Discounted bulk rates apply for customers who process more than 1 million images….Read More>>>

Source:- cnet


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