- Amazon's varied uses of facial recognition technology sparked debate last week after an Amazon seller in Vietnam told BuzzFeed News that the platform required he record a five-second video of his face in order to sign up to sell on the platform.
- "The video will be encrypted and stored for identification purpose. To proceed, enable access to your webcam,” reads a screenshot of the prompt published by BuzzFeed. There was no option to decline the video.
- In response to questions regarding the scale of the seller video requests, the use of the data and any link with Rekognition, Amazon Web Services' (AWS) existing facial recognition product, an Amazon spokesperson emailed the following statement to Supply Chain Dive: "We always experiment with new ways to verify the information sellers provide us in order to protect our store from bad actors. Seller identification information is securely stored and used only for identify (sic) verification."
Amazon did not deny the video request but did tacitly acknowledge the purpose of the video — seller identity verification — in its statement to Supply Chain Dive. Amazon seller consultants told BuzzFeed the video verification is likely intended to cut down on counterfeiting by allowing people to have only one selling account, a major issue for the e-commerce giant.
Evidence that Amazon is using facial recognition to verify sellers naturally leads to questions of whether this data is being incorporated with the rest of Amazon's facial recognition data, since more data makes its Rekognition product more valuable.
Amazon did not give a direct response to Supply Chain Dive's query as to whether the seller data is being incorporated with Rekognition. The spokesperson's statement does not rule out the possibility. Supply Chain Dive requested clarification on this issue and did not receive a response in time for publication.
Amazon Rekognition is available for use across industries but has drawn the most attention and concern for its use by law enforcement.
On Friday, AWS VP of Global Public Policy Michael Punke called for legislation around the technology and laid out a list of suggestions.
"We support the calls for an appropriate national legislative framework that protects individual civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their use of facial recognition technology," Punke wrote on the AWS Machine Learning Blog.
Microsoft President Brad Smith has similarly called for facial recognition regulations.
Controversy over the AWS facial recognition program Rekognition revolves around several tests of the technology, which led to false matches occurring at a higher frequency for people of color. Punke said those false matches were due to user error and defended the value of the software.
"We’ve already seen the technology used to prevent human trafficking, reunite missing children with their parents, improve the physical security of a facility by automating access, and moderate offensive and illegal imagery posted online for removal," Punke wrote.
For Amazon sellers, the unanswered question is whether seller data is being added to the Rekognition data.