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Ross: Smile! Cops now using facial Rekognition for shoplifters

In the suburbs outside Portland, Oregon, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has been using Amazon’s new face recognition service – called Rekognition, with a “K” – to make arrests.

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This very much worries the ACLU because Rekognition could, in the wrong hands, be used to crack down on dissenters.

So CNET.com examined seven police reports where the Reckognition software was used. One case involved a jilted lover banging on his ex-girl friend’s door at 1 a.m.; two others involved shoplifting. All were investigated using the Amazon software to scan the Sheriff’s database of 300,000 mugshots to ID a suspect.

None involved dissent.

But the use of Rekognition for mundane crimes raised another issue – is it fair to use face recognition to solve, as happened in one case, a $12 shoplift?

I would say yes. Those mundane crimes – like shoplifting, or some guy banging on a door at 1 a.m. — are the ones that touch the most people. Shoplifting can kill a small business.

And they’re the kind of thing that wouldn’t be worth a cop’s time if you had to dust for fingerprints. But with face recognition, a security video can tag a suspect in a minutes. And if that makes shoplifters paranoid – good!

Now, when we get to the point where the software matches the face, then issues the warrant, and sends out an Amazon arrest drone to body-snatch the suspect to jail – then we have a debate.

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