How Amazon is selling your facial recognition data using a doorbell

In a new patent application available to the public, technology giant Amazon has presented a project that combines the use of facial recognition technology (such as Rekognition, the face detection system developed by the company) and Ring, the camera-based doorbell that Amazon just acquired. According to cybersecurity specialists, this would become a powerful home-level monitoring tool, which can have serious privacy consequences.

The idea is to consolidate a doorbell model powered by Rekognition, this would allow users to collect in real time extensive details about the people who prowl the entrance of their home. “The intention is to help users make informed decisions about the safety of their home, allowing a database to be integrated with the faces of potentially dangerous people,” the patent application mentions.

However, specialists from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believe that the implementation of this project would open up a huge security breach in every American home. “Amazon’s plan is incredibly dangerous, suggesting the creation of a mass surveillance center, beyond the control of any government entity, implementing facial recognition systems in every home,” says Jacob Snow; lawyer specialized in technology, civil liberties and cybersecurity.

Consider the following scenario: A group of volunteers walks through a neighborhood for the purpose of registering voters in an election. If Amazon’s plan were implemented in that neighborhood and the system finds some match between these individuals and a database of suspects or subjects of criminal investigation, the authorities could be notified, or at least image of the suspects to a government database.

The massive use of facial recognition technology, its efficiency and impact on people’s privacy has been the subject of discussion for years. In addition, there are some features that need to be taken into account, such as the fact that this technology is less efficient in people of color and women, as in these cases tends to find false matches. Another worrying aspect, cybersecurity experts say, is the lack of legislative control over the use of this technology.

Experts from the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) say this is not the only facial recognition project powered by Amazon. The firm recently acquired two patents for the development of a wristband capable of monitoring user movements in real time, possibly to implement it in its plants and limit the downtime of its employees to the maximum; “They’re trying to turn us into machines, into simple data stored on a computer,” he considers an employee who has requested to remain anonymous.