Orlando Police scramble to defend Amazon facial recognition pilot

At a press conference today, Orlando Police Chief John Mina offered new details about the city's facial recognition program, on the heels of new documents issued by the ACLU-NC earlier in the year. this week. In statements to the local press, Mina said that the existing pilot was limited to basic tests and that no member of the public was entered for his search.

"We would never use this technology to track random citizens, immigrants, activists or people of color," Mina told the crowd. "The pilot program is simply testing this technology to see if it even works." Facial recognition algorithms have had problems with racial bias in the industry; there is no relevant data available on biases in the Amazon system specifically.

When the news broke for the first time, Mina had claimed that the pilot was limited to using cameras inside the police headquarters, but today he revised that to include three cameras in front of public areas in downtown Orlando. Even so, the only faces loaded for search were seven OPD officers, all volunteers.

Mina defended the possibilities of facial recognition more broadly, noting a case earlier this year in which an Orlando man was arrested for kidnapping threats against singer Lana Del Rey.

"We had identified it," Mina said. "We knew it was on the way to the sand, we did not know exactly when it was going to get there, Imagine if this technology had been in place and the cameras could track it and alert us that it was getting closer."

Amazon has also backed down some public statements about the Orlando project. Much of the initial information about the project came from a public talk by project manager Ranju Das, who described "cameras throughout the city" by returning data to Amazon servers. Yesterday night, that video was updated with a notice that said Das misspoke.

"The City of Orlando is testing Amazon's Video Rekognition and Amazon Kinesis Video Transmissions internally to find ways to increase public safety and operational efficiency," the update says, "but it's not right that they installed cameras throughout the city or that they are using in production. " We apologize for any misunderstanding "

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