City of Orlando partners with Amazon to test real-time facial recognition technology

ORLANDO, Fla. — The city of Orlando could soon watch residents and track their movements each time they're on a city street.

The city has signed on to a pilot program with Amazon to test Amazon Rekognition, a real-time facial recognition technology that aims to identify people and track them.

The Orlando Police Department said it could use the software to catch criminals.

The city is considering testing the software using Innovative Response to Improve Safety cameras and surveillance cameras at city-owned venues.

"This would be one of the first cities -- as I understand it -- that would be rolling out real-time facial recognition," said Matt Cagle, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney.

The ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU of Florida started looking into the software after Amazon Web Services uploaded a video about it on YouTube earlier this month.

The software could use the city's more than 100 IRIS cameras, traffic cameras, surveillance cameras and police body-worn cameras, documents said.

The city described the program as "public safety software" that could be used to detect and get notifications of persons of interest in real-time.

"If it can help reduce the crime, I don't mind if it invades my privacy for a little bit," visitor Daniel Ngu said.

Critics warn the software could be a dangerous invasion of privacy. They said people should have the right to walk free and assemble, and they're asking Amazon to stop providing the technology to the government.

"Frequently we see surveillance adopted for one reason -- maybe to fight crime -- but then frequently used for other reasons that the public did not consent to," Cagle said.

Police said they haven't had to pay for the software yet, which they're testing on eight cameras using police officers who have volunteered their participation. They said there isn't yet data to suggest the new technology works.

The Orlando Police Department provided Channel 9 with the following statement:

"The city of Orlando is excited to work with Amazon to pilot the latest in public safety software through a unique, first-of-it's-kind public-private partnership. Through the pilot, Orlando will utilize Amazon’s Rekognition Video and Amazon Kinesis Video Streams technology in a way that will use existing city resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interests, further increasing public safety, and operational efficiency opportunities for the city of Orlando and other cities across the nation.

"The Orlando Police Department is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time. The purpose of a pilot program such as this is to address any concerns that arise as the new technology is tested. Any use of the system will be in accordance with current and applicable law. We are always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep the residents and visitors of Orlando safe."

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