US police won't renew a contract for Amazon's facial recognition software, but it's evaluating whether to use it again at a 'further date'

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • The city of Orlando will not be renewing its contract with Amazon for use of its advanced facial recognition software.
  • The contract was already set to expire after a six month pilot program, and city officials are discussing and evaluating whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date,” the city confirmed to Business Insider.
  • The move comes as Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos are facing pressure from Amazon employees, shareholders, and civil rights groups to stop selling the software to law enforcement agencies.

The Orlando Police Department has decided to no immediately renew its contract to use Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software.

In a statement to Business Insider on Monday, Cassandra Anne Lafser, the city of Orlando’s press secretary, said the city will not renew its contract with Amazon, which expired last week after a six month pilot program. Instead, she said, city staff will “discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date.”

“At this time that process in still ongoing and the contract with Amazon remains expired,” Lafser said.

Amazon has not requested to request for comment from Business Insider.

Amazon employees, shareholders, and civil rights groups led by the ACLU have been ratcheting up the pressure on the company and CEO Jeff Bezos for its practice of selling Rekognition to law enforcement agencies since May, when the ACLU obtained documents showing Amazon was actively marketing the software to police departments. In addition to privacy concerns, the ACLU and others worry that law enforcement could use Rekognition to unfairly target women, people of colour, and immigrant communities.

“These systems enable the mass location tracking of residents without criminal suspicion,” the ACLU said in a letter to Orlando city officials. “Amazon’s product is primed for such abuse.”

The software can, the company says, “identify, track and analyse” the faces of up to 100 people from a single image. It has been used in a non-law enforcement capacity by several companies, including Pinterest and CSPAN. But the ACLU found that Amazon had also quietly made deals with at least two police departments – the Orlando Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon.

In defence of Rekognition’s use by law enforcement, Amazon has said that it will suspend use for any customer who violates the law. The software has already been deployed to find abducted people, the company told Gizmodo last month.

“Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology,” Amazon told Gizmodo at the time.

Despite direct pleas from shareholders and more than 100 Amazon employees, CEO Jeff Bezos has been silent on the issue.

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