Amazon Facial Recognition Mistakenly Linked Ed Markey to a Mugshot

Now he's urging new oversight of the software.

Photo via AP/Andrew Harnik

As far as we know, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey’s face has never appeared in a mugshot. But that’s not the result the ACLU got when it tested out Amazon facial-recognition software recently, exposing flaws in the system and prompting calls for new oversight.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday released results of an analysis of Amazon’s Rekognition program. The group said it ran the headshots of all the members of Congress through a program designed to check faces against a database of people arrested for crimes, and the system inaccurately linked 28 of the politicians with photos of the suspected criminals, including Markey. It’s using the results to argue that flaws in the software might cause police who use it in surveillance to mistakenly identify innocent people as suspects.

“Congress must take these threats seriously, hit the brakes, and enact a moratorium on law enforcement use of face recognition,” the ACLU said. “This technology shouldn’t be used until the harms are fully considered and all necessary steps are taken to prevent them from harming vulnerable communities.”

“Congress needs to enact comprehensive privacy legislation that enshrines the right that consumers own their personal data, and this law should also apply to facial recognition technology,” Markey said in a statement to the Boston Herald. “We need rules that ensure consumers have knowledge about how their personal information may be used and the ability to say ‘no’ to its collection and retention.”