Details emerge of Amazon's facial recognition deal with US immigration service

Amazon claims its initial pitch was part of a wider boot camp attended by a range of companies

Amazon met up with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year to discuss the intricacies of its Rekognition video tagging and analysis technology, it has emerged, suggesting the agency could use the rather controversial technology to identify people crossing its borders.

There's already been some talk that the US government may start using video surveillance and identification tech to uncover immigrants that may be trying to hide from authorities. However, documents now freely available to view on Document Cloud, following a Freedom of information request by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), suggest talks are a little further along than some initially realised.

The list of things the two organisations discussed included an innovation workshop that would educate the Homeland Security Investigations unit to help them overcome its list of "challenges", how the organisation could use predictive analytics core capabilities and deployment scenarios, Elasticsearch as a managed service and other matters related to the services Amazon could provide the department with.

It also specified Rekognition video tagging/analysis, scalability and custom object libraries, suggesting this key technology is on ICE's roadmap. When questioned further about the relationship between the two companies, ICE said it was unable to give much more information.

The revelation comes at a time when technology companies are under pressure to distance themselves from the US' controversial border policies, with a number of firms being openly critical of the current administration. Microsoft, Apple, Reddit, Uber, eBay, Box and Cisco all issued statements after it was revealed agents had been forcibly removing children from their parents at the US/Mexico border.

"We can't provide data on how often we've met with a particular vendor to discuss emerging technology they're developing, but industry outreach and building relationships with potential contractors is fairly standard within government acquisition," an ICE spokesperson said when questioned by POGO further about the documents.

Amazon said that it has liaised with ICE at a number of boot camps, alongside other organisations also pitching their technologies to the government. IT only discussed Rekognition as part of other projects and said the communication was merely a follow-up on the presentation.

"As we usually do, we followed up with customers who were interested in learning more about how to use our services [Immigration and Customs Enforcement was one of those organizations where there was follow-up discussion]," the company said in an email to The Daily Beast.

Featured Resources

Key considerations for implementing secure telework at scale

Identifying the security risks and advanced requirements of a remote workforce

Download now

The State of Salesforce 2020

Your guide to getting the most from Salesforce

Download now

Fast, flexible and compliant e-signatures for global businesses

Be at the forefront of digital transformation with electronic signatures

Download now

Rethink your cybersecurity strategy for the new world

5 steps to secure the enterprise and be fit for a flexible future

Download now

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

3 Aug 2020
How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

4 Aug 2020
How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?
operating systems

How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?

3 Aug 2020