Walking around downtown Orlando, you might not notice the lightbulb-sized camera affixed to one of the traffic signal poles along the city’s palm tree–studded avenues. But it’s there, scanning all the same. If it sees you, the camera will instantly send a live video feed over to Amazon’s facial “Rekognition” system, cross-referencing your face against persons of interest. It’s one of three IRIS cameras in the Orlando area whose video feeds are processed by a system that could someday flag potential criminal matches — for now, all the “persons of interest” are volunteers from the Orlando police — and among a growing number of facial recognition systems nationally.
In the US, there are no laws governing the use of facial recognition, and there is no regulatory framework limiting its law enforcement applications. There is no case law or constitutional precedent upholding police use of the tech without a warrant; courts haven’t even decided whether facial recognition constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The technology is still plagued by inaccuracies.
But that hasn’t stopped law enforcement from piloting these systems. According to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, the city of Orlando — which initially allowed its original Rekognition pilot to expire amid growing public outcry — just embarked on a second pilot that allows for an unspecified but “increased” number of additional cameras.