amazon bans facial recognition police

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Amazon says it’s halting police use of facial recognition for 1 year

Amazon's relationships with law enforcement and the technology have long been criticized.

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Jun 10, 2020   Updated Jan 27, 2021, 12:54 pm CST

Amazon is putting a halt on police use of its facial recognition technology for one year, the company announced late Wednesday.

The news that Amazon was putting a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition tool Rekognition comes just a day after IBM said it would no longer offer the technology.

Amazon’s facial recognition tool being used by law enforcement has long been a criticism of privacy advocates, who have noted that the technology has a racial bias. Activists have been calling for an outright ban on government and law enforcement use of the technology.

While the retail giant did not say exactly why the moratorium was announced, it comes as protests continue across the country against police brutality and systematic racism, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

Members of Congress earlier this week wrote letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the National Guard Bureau demanding they stop surveilling the protests.

Within the letter, they said facial recognition technology was among the numerous ways the protests were being subjected to surveillance.

In its announcement, Amazon said it is still allowing organizations that focus on rescuing human trafficking victims and reuniting missing children to use Rekognition.

The retail giant also said it hoped Congress will pass laws surrounding the use of the technology.

“We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested,” the company said.

In 2019, Recode reported that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company’s public policy team was working on guidelines to pitch to lawmakers regarding facial recognition.

Democratic lawmakers unveiled a police reform bill this week that included some parameters surrounding government use of facial recognition technology, however, some advocates say it does not go far enough.

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*First Published: Jun 10, 2020, 5:51 pm CDT