18:22 GMT04 August 2020
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    Tech giants question whether face detecting technologies should be used by law enforcement agencies, as protests against police brutality continue in the United States following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

    Amazon announced on Wednesday it has banned using Rekognition by police for at least one year.

    “We've advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge", Amazon said in a statement. "We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested."

    On Monday, another tech giant, IBM, said it was quitting facial recognition software, with CEO Arvind Krishna appealing to US lawmakers, "We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies".

    The announcements come as President Donald Trump is set to present police reform measures to address the current protests over the death of black man George Floyd following police custody.

    Meanwhile, police reform measures have been implemented or are being developed in several US states. They include banning chokeholds by police, transparency concerning police officers with a record of abuse, and punishing false race-based 911 reports.

    Amazon said earlier that Rekognition can identify a person's emotions, detecting happiness, sadness, and even fear. Such software has been criticised after research suggested it had problems with racial and gender bias.

    Will police suffer from Amazon's Decision?

    Speaking of the tech giant's moratorium on the use of its facial recognition tech by police, Brian Lovell, a professor at the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology at the University of Queensland, said he doubted that "a serious police force would use Amazon Rekognition, as it requires them to upload very sensitive data to the Cloud." At the same time, he noted that commercial companies developing facial recognition tech are seeing the growing competition from open-source rivals who do not charge for their software.

    "Commercial face recognition technology is incredibly powerful and accurate. Nevertheless, free open-source releases are highly competitive with the commercial offerings so there is no real benefit in going commercial in terms of performance.  The main reason for commercial rather than open-source systems would be for the software support. This open source support issue can be overcome. For example, many vendors such as RedHat now support Linux, which is also open source," he says.
    Tags:
    protests, Amazon, Jeff Bezos, United States
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