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Facial Recognition Mistakes Boston Pro Athletes for Criminals

Massachusetts’ ACLU tested the accuracy of Amazon’s facial recognition technology called “Rekognition.” Out of 188 New England pro athletes, the software misidentified 28, growing concerns over its efficacy and ethics.

(TNS) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts conducted a test of facial recognition technology to identify 188 New England athletes. The test misidentified 28, matching them to mugshots in the arrest photo database.

The facial recognition technology is called “Amazon Rekognition,” and was unveiled by the company in 2016.

“Amazon Rekognition is based on the same proven, highly scalable, deep learning technology,” states the website. “Developed by Amazon’s computer vision scientists to analyze billions of images and videos daily and requires no machine learning expertise to use.”

The test included official headshots of well-known athletes from the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots and compared them with 20,000 public arrest photos.

“This technology is flawed,” said New England Patriots safety Duron Harmon, the New England Patriots safety who was one of the 28 misidentified. “If it misidentified me, my teammates, and other professional athletes in an experiment, imagine the real-life impact of false matches. This technology should not be used by the government without protections. Massachusetts should press pause on face surveillance technology.”

A similar test conducted last year by the ACLU of California misidentified 28 sitting members of Congress who were disproportionately people of color, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In May, the BBC reported that facial recognition software’s ability to recognize black and minority faces has become a concern for those worried about the technology which could mean black and minority ethnic people could be falsely identified.

“The results of this scan add to the mounting evidence that unregulated face surveillance technology in the hands of government agencies is a serious threat to individual rights, due process, and democratic freedoms,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Face surveillance is dangerous when it doesn’t work, and when it does.”

In addition to Harmon, the ACLU of Massachusetts is pushing for a state moratorium on government use of facial recognition software.

“There are currently no rules or standards in place in our state to ensure the technology isn’t misused or abused,” said Crockford. “Massachusetts must pass a moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology until there are safeguards in place to keep people safe and free.”

In 2017, Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon became the first law enforcement agency in the country known to use Amazon’s artificial-intelligence tool Rekognition.

©2019, Springfield, Mass.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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