Amazon’s Surveillance Can Now Sense Fear

Earlier this week, Amazon Web Services announced that their facial analysis software was able to identify fear in the face of subjects. The software, named Rekognition, also can identify gender and determine the ages of individuals it analyzes. AWS has come under fire recently for providing government sources with their technology, and the improvements in Rekognition have only fanned the flames of those that don’t approve of the US government’s methods.

Facial recognition software has been a popular topic of conversation recently with its application to the current crisis in Hong Kong by the Chinese government. Amazon pitched Rekognition software to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2016 to improve the authority’s ability to deal with incoming migrants. However, Americans have grown wary of the ICE itself. Petitions have been started to urge Amazon to stop selling its software to the government until proper checks and balances are introduced into the system to prevent abuse.

The introduction of emotional processing into Amazon’s system further worries Americans concerned with its existing faults. The emotion-reading capabilities of the system are, so far, untested. There is no measure of how accurate the system is, and a possibility exists for wrongfully tagging an innocent person as guilty through faulty emotional detection. These issues add to the current human-based biases that the ICE have been accused of including discrimination by race.

Individual Privacy Concerns

As facial recognition becomes more and more commonplace around the world, the debate as to whether an individual’s face constitutes part of his or her personal data rages on. The extensive use of the software by law enforcement does seem to raise some red flags. Constant surveillance is seen by some as a tell-tale sign of an impending police state, leading to further curtailment of rights and freedoms. While the reality is not yet this grim and dystopian, the public need to weigh the supposed benefits the system offers over the impacts it can have on the lives of Americans.