After the release of ‘Rekognition‘ back in May, Amazon‘s facial recognition system is gaining traction, generating sales to US police departments including for Orlando, Florida, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. The consumer based platform has moved into the surveillance sector but many people are concerned about the safety of the general public if the technology is misused. According to Amazon, Rekognition “makes it easy to add image and video analysis to your applications.”

“You just provide an image or video to the Rekognition API, and the service can identify the objects, people, text, scenes, and activities, as well as detect any inappropriate content. Amazon Rekognition also provides highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition. You can detect, analyse and compare faces for a wide variety of user verification, cataloging, people counting and public safety use cases.”

For example, “a surveillance camera captured the image of a man using a credit card that was later reported as stolen. Because of the low resolution and high angle of the image, it was difficult to determine who it was just by looking at the image. When we ran it through Amazon Rekognition, we received a result that was greater than a 95% match.” This was detailed by Chris Adzima, a senior information systems analyst for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Recently, Forbes tested the service, and with the addition of paid technical help the program only cost $10 to set up. With the help of independent researcher Matt Svensson, the team set up an AWS Database with stock photos and staff head shots as well as a program to send texts wants matches were found – as expected the Rekognition system did not fail.


“I then asked Amazon to look for faces in a short selfie video, then requested find a photo match. Again, quick success with another 99% match. It all worked with little effort, even for a dummy,” recounted staff member 

“Even if we include costs of testing, figuring out AWS and actually running the facial recognition on our scenario, it’s going to be under $10,” said Svensson.

Along with a range of benefits and uses for a range of industries, privacy concerns are still a major factor. Amazon has put guidelines in place to prevent users breaking the law and misusing the system, removing anyone who does not comply.

Amazon Rekognition

“As a technology, Amazon Rekognition has many useful applications in the real world (e.g. various agencies have used Rekognition to find abducted people, amusement parks use Rekognition to find lost children, the Royal Wedding that just occurred this past weekend used Rekognition to identify wedding attendees),” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“And, the utility of AI services like this will only increase as more companies start using advanced technologies like Amazon Rekognition. Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology. Imagine if customers couldn’t buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes? Like any of our AWS services, we require our customers to comply with the law and be responsible when using Amazon Rekognition.”