Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida sent a letter to the Orlando City Council in response to records revealing the use of Amazon’s Rekognition face surveillance system by the Orlando Police Department. The ACLU of Florida’s letter urges the City Council to immediately suspend the use of Rekognition and any other face surveillance in order to ensure that the privacy, free speech, and due process rights of all Orlando residents and visitors are properly and equally protected. The letter also expresses support for a letter sent to Orlando Police by community leaders last week also demanding the suspension of face surveillance.
“People should be able to safely live their lives without being watched and targeted by their government.”
Nancy Abudu, ACLU
After a six-month investigation that concluded in May, the ACLU obtained records revealing that Amazon was working with law enforcement agencies on both US coasts to push its face surveillance product, including the Orlando Police Department. Powered by artificial intelligence, Amazon says Rekognition is able to search against databases holding millions of faces and identify up to 100 people in a single image and track people in real time in streaming video of crowds and public places. These records and subsequent reporting revealed the Orlando Police Department has been using this technology to analyze footage drawn from the city’s video surveillance cameras, prompting privacy objections about how this technology and data is being used.
“The City Council has allowed the use of this technology by the Orlando Police Department without inviting public debate, obtaining local legislative authorization, or adopting rules to prevent harm to Orlando community members,” said Nancy Abudu, legal director of the ACLU of Florida. “People should be able to safely live their lives without being watched and targeted by their government. We demand the City of Orlando to uphold that standard and end the use of a tool that threatens public safety, and that will endanger the rights of communities of color, protesters, and immigrants.”
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