Amazon’s celebrity facial recognition tool mistakenly seemed to identify some criminals on FBI’s Most Wanted list as famed personalities such as late painter Bob Ross, BuzzFeed News reported on Friday. BuzzFeed said it had ran 507 photos of criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and 3,248 photos from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) mugshot identification database though Amazon’s celebrity recognition tool, a feature the company introduced about a year ago.

The celebrity recognition tool is different from Amazon’s broader facial recognition tool Rekognition, and is meant to help identify celebrities, like for example identifying the movie character Jack Sparrow as Johnny Depp, according to BuzzFeed. Meanwhile, a mugshot of an arrested black man in the NIST database was identified as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with 96 percent confidence rate, according to BuzzFeed.

Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Hill. BuzzFeed reported Amazon replied to its request for comment by pointing out that its celebrity recognition tool was completely different from its broader platform, Rekognition, which would have not returned the same types of results given the divergent underlying technology.  Amazon also said its celebrity facial recognition tool was designed for entertainment, social media, and other fun intentions,  according to BuzzFeed, and denied it was a facial recognition system, instead calling it a “classification” system.

“As we shared with BuzzFeed, this is a silly article that seems more designed to drive clicks than to educate people who use machine learning,” an Amazon spokesperson told BuzzFeed. “To use a celebrity detection model — that is trained to recognize celebrities including movie actors who frequently disguise themselves to look like others (including criminals) and that is optimized to return celebrity matches — for anything other than trying to detect celebrities is just silly.

It’s certainly absurd for doing anything where the integrity of the match is critical like in law enforcement.” Amazon’s Rekognition has earned criticism, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who have expressed concern about the usage and reliability of the platform. Read more from…

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