Police in Washington are running suspect sketches through Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software, report reveals

In a previously undocumented use of facial recognition software, police in Washington state are using Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ to track down criminals with as little as an artist’s sketch.

According to a report from The Washington Post, police in Washington County are able to compare pictures of suspects harvested from security cameras and eye-witness’ cell phone pictures against databases containing 300,000 mugshots of known criminals.

In just Washington County Police Department alone, the report states more than 1,000 facial scans were logged last year which have helped identify subjects, sometimes leading officers to home arrests.

While law enforcement say the software has been a critical tool in expediting investigations and tracking down otherwise elusive criminals, skeptics say the use of facial recognition opens up a proverbial Pandora’s Box of mass surveillance that could lead to more false identifications.

In some cases, the report notes, police are taking the previously undocumented step of running sketches — artist renderings based on eye-witness reports — through the system in hopes of turning up a suspect.

This in particular has riled concern from experts who say that standards for using the technology have yet to catch up to the reality and breadth of its deployment.

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