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Facial Recognition Technology

Advances in AI and the proliferation of surveillance cameras have made it increasingly easier to watch and track individuals.

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Amazon's controversial facial recognition technology, called Rekognition, has a new skill. It can now spot fear. The company says it recently launched updates to Rekognition's facial analysis features, including improved age estimation and the addition of fear to its emotion detection.

"We have improved accuracy for emotion detection (for all 7 emotions: 'Happy,' 'Sad,' 'Angry,' 'Surprised,' 'Disgusted,' 'Calm' and 'Confused') and added a new emotion: 'Fear,'" according to an update from Amazon on Monday. "Lastly, we have improved age range estimation accuracy; you also get narrower age ranges across most age groups."

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Amazon says its Rekognition software can track and analyze hundreds of people in a photo using a database with tens of millions of faces. Critics have expressed concerns about the technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union says it could be abused by law enforcement, posing a "grave threat to communities, including people of color and immigrants." The ACLU on Tuesday said its test of Amazon's Rekognition software wrongly flagged 26 California lawmakers as criminals.

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Amazon, however, says the ACLU is misrepresenting its facial recognition software.

In July, the Orlando Police Department officially ended its Amazon Rekognition program after a bumpy ride. The department had temporarily stopped using Rekognition in June 2018 after the city's pilot program with Amazon ended and after the ACLU penned an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos highlighting privacy concerns. Amazon employees have also protested the sale of Rekognition software to police. The Washington County Sheriff Office in Oregon is currently the only law enforcement listed as an Amazon Rekognition customer.

Originally published Aug. 14
Update, Aug. 15: Adds more background on Amazon's Rekognition software.

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