Orlando stops using Amazon's controversial facial recognition tech

But the Florida police department might re-up for the Rekognition program in the future.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
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Amazon's widely criticized facial recognition software has been used in Florida and Oregon. 

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Amazon's widely criticized facial recognition software has been booted out of Orlando, Florida.

The Orlando Police Department said Monday that it's dropped the Rekognition facial recognition program with Amazon, as Gizmodo first reported. But the program could be restarted in the future.

"The city's pilot with Amazon regarding the potential viability of their Rekognition technology ended last week," said Michelle Guido, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department, in an emailed statement. "Staff continues to discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date.  At this time, that process in still ongoing and the contract with Amazon remains expired."

"We did a professional services engagement with the city or Orlando that was a pilot and had a discernible end date. That this engagement ended was expected and is not news," an Amazon Web Service spokesperson said in an email statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union revealed last month that the online retail giant had been selling Rekognition to law enforcement agencies. The software can track and analyze hundreds of people in a photo using a database with tens of millions of faces.

Last week, the ACLU then sent a petition letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to "end its practice of selling its dragnet surveillance system to local enforcement," according to the emails released by the organization. The technology was being used in Florida and Oregon at the time.

In the same week, Amazon employees protested the company's sale of Rekognition software with letters echoing the ACLU's. Employees also demanded Bezos stop supporting data analytics company Palantir, which is used by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

First published on June 25, 3:12 p.m. PT.

Updates, June 26, 2:28 p.m. PT: Adds Amazon Web Service spokesperson statement.