October 24, 2018

ICE looks into becoming powered by Amazon technology


Like a scene from a boardroom in Hell, last summer representatives from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) met with Amazon reps to discuss the possibility of adopting the company’s facial recognition technology, known as Rekognition.

As Jake Laperruque and Andrea Peterson write for the Daily Beast, “facial recognition technology can scan a face and run it against tens of millions of faces in a database to find a match in a single second. Real-time facial recognition technologies, like Rekognition, can scan a crowd using live video feeds.”

And so, the pitch is simple: with Amazon’s technology, ICE might be able to boost their detention numbers.

If you’re familiar with either Amazon, or ICE you probably already know why this unholy alliance could spell trouble for us all: it could further cement an already cozy relationship between Amazon (and other big tech companies) and the Federal Government, it will enable ICE to (somehow more easily) surveil sensitive locations like schools and places of worship that they should absolutely not be surveilling, and it will increase the odds of misidentification.

That threat of misidentification looms large. As Laperruque and Peterson report:

Rekognition faced scrutiny earlier this year after the ACLU revealed it was already being used by some local police departments. And using Amazon’s software, the ACLU discovered this July that inputting photos of every member of Congress into a mugshot database misidentified 28 individuals as other people who had been arrested for a crime, with a disproportionate error rate for people of color.

Employees have already urged Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to stop selling the software to law enforcement.

Information on the meeting–which has not yet yielded a contract–comes from the Project on Government Oversight.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.