Orlando, Fla., to Decide Fate of Facial Recognition Pilot

In the last few months, use of Amazon's Rekognition on the part of law enforcement has prompted scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union and local privacy groups.

(TNS) — Orlando’s test of Amazon’s high-tech facial-recognition software has expired, and city officials are debating whether or not to continue the test, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

“Staff continues to discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot, but at this time of the contract expiration, that process is still ongoing,” Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for Mayor Buddy Dyer, said in an email.

The Orlando Police Department had been piloting the software — called Rekognition — for several months and had it installed in three of its IRIS cameras downtown, Police Chief John Mina said last month.

Mina also said the department was testing the high-tech software in five cameras within its headquarters and it was only tracking seven OPD officers who volunteered for it.

The high-tech software is advertised as able to pick a person out of a crowd and track their movements in real time. Records show the city didn’t pay Amazon to pilot the software.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed “profound concerns” about the system, calling it “supercharged surveillance.” The group feared the Rekognition software could be used to track immigrants, people of color or policial activists, though Mina vowed that wouldn’t happen.

In the press conference last month, Mina said no members of the public were being tracked by the software, and it was only being used to follow seven police officers who volunteered for the pilot.

©2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.