Facial recognition software for law enforcement

U.S. & World

(NBC) – After a crime, police can sometimes need hours, even days to identify a suspect.

The sheriff’s office in Washington County, Oregon is one of the first to start using Amazon’s facial recognition technology to speed up that process.

Brian Van Kleef of the Washington County sheriff’s office says, “It does make our jobs a lot easier and also finds that needle in a haystack.”

The tool can compare surveillance photos or other images from a crime scene to its database of 300,000 mugshots with results in seconds, helping them solve some crimes.

According to Van Kleef, “It’s not big murder cases that we’re solving using this technology.”

Instead, it’s petty ones like a $12 shoplifting case and a stolen bicycle.

Ben Fox Rubin of CNet points out, “These are pretty minor crimes they are using this very powerful new tool on.”

Civil liberties groups and AI researchers are speaking out against Amazon selling its facial recognition software to police.

Douglas Fisher, Vanderbilt computer sciences professor, says, “There are concerns with privacy, one big concern is just general surveillance.”

And the technology that matches those photos isn’t perfect

Fisher claims, “It can make errors, there are racial and gender biases.”

And guidelines for use by law enforcement are catching up.

Says Fox Rubin, “Interestingly enough, there’s very little legislation written about facial recognition.”

But the Washington County sheriffs office says it has policies to ensure the technology is used responsibly.

Van Kleef claims, “No one can ever be arrested based on a result from facial recognition. It’s always comes down to human based decision.”

One that’s increasingly aided by artificial intelligence

Amazon shareholders will vote May 22 on whether the company should sell its controversial facial recognition technology to governments.

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