The City of Orlando is no longer using Amazon to surveil its residents (for now).
The Orlando Police Department and the city issued a joint statement today that announced they were no longer using Rekognition, Amazon’s deep-learning technology that can identify every face in a crowd.
“Staff continues to discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date,” reads the statement obtained by Mashable, which was issued as a response to the ACLU of Florida sending a letter of dissent to city-level officials. “At this time that process in still ongoing and the contract with Amazon remains expired.”
The City of Orlando did not end its partnership with Amazon as a result of public outcry, however. It simply did not renew the six-month pilot program contract with the e-commerce giant, which started in December last year.
Orlando is just one of a handful of cities across the country that is using or is thinking about using Rekognition for surveillance purposes. Amazon has been targeting cities and marketing this technology to law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Multiple American Civil Liberties Union chapters discovered these partnerships by filing public information requests, and since the ACLU announced its findings, many advocacy groups have openly opposed these collaborations.
The ACLU of Florida’s open letter to Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council today demanded that they immediately stopped using any face surveillance technology.
“Face surveillance systems like Rekognition present a grave threat to Orlando residents and visitors,” the ACLU of Florida wrote in its letter. “These systems enable the mass location tracking of residents without criminal suspicion. Amazon’s product is primed for such abuse.”
The ACLU of Florida further argued that the City of Orlando’s reasoning to use Rekognition — to keep its residents safe — was counterintuitive, especially at a time of heightened political actions, when the technology could be used to track protestors, immigrants, and people of color.
They were especially angry, because the pilot program was implemented in secret — there was no announcement that they were testing this new surveillance technology.
“The City of Orlando is always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep our residents and visitors safe,” the City of Orlando and the police department further wrote in their statement, which echoed what they put out last month after the ACLU announced that Orlando was testing Rekognition.
“Partnering with innovative companies to test new technology — while also ensuring we uphold privacy laws and in no way violate the rights of others — is critical to us as we work to further keep our community safe.”
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