AI researchers

More than two dozen of AI researchers from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and other universities have called on Amazon to stop selling its facial rekognition software to the law enforcement people. In an open letter published today, researchers say studies have repeatedly shown that Amazon’s algorithms are flawed, that have high error rates for darker skinned female faces.

The AI researchers also said that if the technology is adopted by the law enforcement staff. then they have the potential to amplify racial discrimination, could create cases of mistaken identity, and encourage intrusive surveillance of marginalized groups.

Among those people who are against this facial rekognition tech are the deep learning luminary and recent Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio, Caltech professor and former Amazon principal scientist Anima Anandkumar, and researchers in fields of computer vision and machine learning Google AI, Microsoft Research, and facebook Rekognition software has been using by the police department in Florida and Washington. Now being offered to the department of homeland security to identify immigrants.

“We call on Amazon to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement as legislation and safeguards to prevent misuse are not in place,” reads the letter. “There are no laws or required standards to ensure that Rekognition is used in a manner that does not infringe on civil liberties.”

“Decisions from such automated tools may also seem more correct than they actually are, a phenomenon known as ‘automation bias’, or may prematurely limit human-driven critical analyses,” the letter reads.

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The researchers further put forward the point that law enforcement department with little understanding of technicalities about the rekognition software could make serious errors like putting some innocent person behind the bars. On the other hand, Amazon has defended its technology and said that no reports of law enforcement misusing its facial recognition.

“These technologies need to be developed in a way that does not harm human beings, or perpetuates harm to already historically marginalized groups,” says Morgan Klaus Scheuerman, a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder and one of 26 signatories of the letter. “This is an interdisciplinary problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach.”

Google refuses to sell facial recognition because the threat of its misuse and Microsoft has called for government regulations.