Amazon's Facial Recognition Technology Misidentifies New England Athletes: ACLU

Over two dozen Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins players were falsely matched to images in an arrest photo database

Facial recognition technology available from Amazon falsely matched dozens of professional athletes in New England to people in a mugshot database, the American Civil Liberties Union said, raising alarms about the potential risks of face surveillance.  

The ACLU of Massachusetts said it carried out a test of the widely-available “Rekognition” technology and found the technology mistakenly matched 27 athletes — including Duron Harmon of the Patriots and Brad Marchand of the Bruins — to images in an arrest photo database.

“This technology is flawed,” Harmon said in a statement released by the ACLU. “If it misidentified me, my teammates, and other professional athletes in an experiment, imagine the real-life impact of false matches. This technology should not be used by the government without protections. Massachusetts should press pause on face surveillance technology.”

The ACLU said it performed the test by comparing the official headshots of athletes from the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox to a database of 20,000 public arrest photos. The organization said nearly one-in-six athletes were falsely identified. 

“The results of this scan add to the mounting evidence that unregulated face surveillance technology in the hands of government agencies is a serious threat to individual rights, due process, and democratic freedoms,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts.

“Face surveillance is dangerous when it doesn’t work, and when it does. There are currently no rules or standards in place in our state to ensure the technology isn’t misused or abused. Massachusetts must pass a moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology until there are safeguards in place to keep people safe and free.”

Amazon responded to the ACLU's test saying they were “knowingly misusing and misrepresenting Amazon Rekognition to make headlines.” The company said the “Rekognition” technology, when used with the recommended 99% confidence threshold, can be beneficial when helping to identify criminals and missing children.

“The ACLU is once again trying to make facial recognition appear dangerous and inaccurate. But independent testing from the federal government has consistently shown that facial recognition technology is highly accurate. It now exceeds the accuracy of humans at identifying faces,” read a statement from Information Technology & Innovation Foundation Daniel Castro.

Here's a full list of the New England athletes the ACLU said were falsely identified.

New England Patriots

  • David Andrews
  • Adam Butler
  • Yodny Cajuste
  • Keionta Davis
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • Stephen Gostkowski
  • Duron Harmon
  • Jonathan Jones
  • Lance Kendricks
  • David Parry
  • Danny Shelton
  • Dan Skipper
  • James White
  • Isaiah Wynn

Boston Bruins

  • Sean Kuraly
  • Karson Kuhlman
  • Brad Marchand
  • John Moore
  • Joakim Nordstrom

Boston Red Sox

  • Heath Hembree
  • Steve Pearce
  • Chris Sale
  • Hector Velazquez
  • Christian Vazquez
  • Brandon Workman

Boston Celtics

  • Tacko Fall
  • Gordon Hayward
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