Amazon to check facial recognition expertise to confirm vendor identification

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Amazon will test facial recognition, forgery detection, and other automated technologies as a new alternative for verifying the identities of online sellers.

The test will be rolled out as a voluntary option for prospective sellers in the U.S. starting today, the company said in a post Tuesday morning. Video calls with human reviewers remain an alternative for those who don’t want to participate.

Amazon says it’s responding to feedback from small business owners who asked for a more efficient verification process. Identity verification is part of a broader effort by the company to combat fraud on its platform.

“Our test will determine whether we can achieve the same robustness of identity verification as our current processes while also providing a better experience for sellers who choose this verification process,” said Anirudh Chandrakant, director of Amazon Seller Registration Services, in the post announcing the test.

Amazon says it will use the biometric data solely for the purpose of verifying identity, determining if someone is a live person and whether a face matches a picture on a government-issued identification card.

Images are encrypted in transit and at rest, the company says, noting that it adheres to applicable privacy laws and regulations.

The company similarly tested live video calls for identity verification starting in April 2020 before making that approach standard for seller onboarding.

Here’s how Amazon describes the new verification process for prospective sellers.

  1. First, they’ll provide access to their device’s camera, and will be shown a series of steps in which images of their face and government-issued identity document are captured.
  2. Next, the images are analyzed using machine learning models to create unique facial measurements called facial biometric data. This data is processed in real time to confirm that the prospective seller’s face matches the face on their government-issued identification document.
  3. Once that process is complete, the prospective seller will see a pending verification page.
  4. During the test, we will be manually reviewing the system’s decisions and verifying seller identities, and notifying prospective sellers of the decision within a few days. In the future, many of these decisions will be automated and communicated instantly.

Facial recognition technology has drawn criticism in some scenarios due to privacy concerns and the potential for bias. Amazon, Microsoft and others have stopped offering facial recognition technology to law enforcement.

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