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Orlando Police Decide To Keep Testing Controversial Amazon Facial Recognition Program

Despite previous reports that the program has been ended, the Orlando Police Department in Florida is planning to continue its test of Amazon’s real-time facial recognition system. “News of OPD supposedly ending its use of Rekognition on footage captured by a number of CCTV cameras came just a day after the ACLU sent a letter to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer regarding the face recognition program,” reports Gizmodo. “But the end date for the initial pilot period had already been selected — it just happened to coincide with the ACLU’s report and the ensuing backlash from civil rights groups.” From the report: While the original test period ended, the OPD will soon sit down with Amazon representatives to outline the new pilot, the police department told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s really to prevent the next tragedy,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said. Now, with the program set to continue, Dyer says the practice is not as dystopian as it seems.

Details on the new pilot are sparse. OPD confirmed it will test Rekognition on at least eight cameras, as it did before, though their location isn’t known. In the previous trial program, five Rekognition-enabled cameras captured footage at OPD headquarters, while three additional cameras were positioned in downtown Orlando. During its initial testing phase, Rekognition will scan officers’ faces against a face database made up of volunteers. The plan, the OPD memo explains, is for officers themselves to walk in front of the cameras and record how accurately the technology recognizes them from different angles, with different clothes, or other variables. It’s not known how long this initial testing phase will last, though the city plans to draft proposed regulations before any public rollout begins. It’s worth noting that pilot itself requires no public approval and Dyer has wholeheartedly supported Rekognition. “No images of the public will be used for any testing,” OPD said in a statement.

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