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Amazon Might Be Working on ‘Database of Suspicious Persons’ Using Facial Recognition

A patent application has been filed by Amazon which offered a vision of how the doorbell cameras could be used alongside new technology which can help such devices to gain data and identify people who are suspicious.

This was revealed by the US Patent and Trademark Office just last month, and CNN first reported it. This described how a set of cameras can be used in synchronization to form an individual’s image, thereby providing owners and the police the facility to identify people/person who has engaged in potentially criminal activity easily.

The inventor of the patent has been identified as Jamie Siminoff,  who is the CEO of Ring. The ring is a home security company which specializes in manufacturing doorbells which record video and connect this to users’ smartphones. Amazon’s acquisition of Ring in February resulted in Amazon getting into home surveillance business.

The patent application states thus- “Home safety is a major concern for homeowners and the presence of doorbell which records movements can prove to be a “powerful deterrent against would-be burglars. We also provide potential uses for cameras equipped with facial-recognition technology, like comparing facial images to a “database of suspicious persons.” If a suspicious person showed up on a homeowner’s doorstep, the technology can then be used to retrieve “information about that person from the database.

A post was analyzing a person’s facial features and contacting the respective homeowners, the application suggests that the visitor could be added to an “authorized visitor list” or to a database of “suspicious people.” This technology will also allow neighbors to share information regarding suspicious people, thereby helping create a cooperative neighborhood-wide surveillance system.

The Ring has already begun to explore similar such technologies. In May, CNET reported that Ring also launched an app which was known as “Neighbors,” that allowed people to “view and comment on crime and security-related information in their communities.

Siminoff told CNET that the app has already grossed more than 1 million active users. These users are making effective use of this app to swap information regarding crimes and criminals. Siminoff added-“We’re seeing it become a foundation. It will enhance everything we do in the company.”

Jake Snow, who is a technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, gave a word of warning stating that the patent application indicated that the technology could be used to create “a massive, decentralised surveillance network.”

Snow said thus- “This application gave me chills. Amazon has started pushing law enforcement to embrace facial-recognition technology. I believe that Amazon is proceeding without giving consideration to the consequences of using this technology. Just imagine this- if a person who has a criminal record is out to deliver a package, but the system has been set to recognize anyone who has a prior criminal history as a ‘suspicious person’ automatically. Further, the cops end up showing to this place when this so-called suspicious person is just doing their job. After this, an interaction happens between the police and this individual, which is when the police get to know about the truth. In between all this, police might turn deadly for any/no reason at all at times.”

Amazon spokesman denied to comment on the patent application, but the company stated that the application is based on a filing that was previously done by Ring, which was even before Amazon acquired the company.

The patent office hasn’t issued the patent, and this was confirmed by Amazon, who said that patents don’t necessarily have to reflect product development plans. Snow said thus-“Patent application doesn’t necessarily tell what a company is “going to do tomorrow, it will only reveal what the company is contemplating. An algorithm shouldn’t have the ability to decide whether someone is suspicious or not. We are calling out Amazon to be more thoughtful of the consequences of this technology being deployed in communities and being rolled out to the public for use.”

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