Staff, Investors Push Amazon to Stop Selling Facial Recognition Tech to Police

© AP Photo / Ted S. Warren, FileAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos - Sputnik International
A group of Amazon employees sent a signed letter to CEO Jeff Bezos protesting the company’s marketing of facial recognition software to police forces. Their objection follows another letter expressing worry on the subject from some of Amazon’s biggest stockholders.

Business Insider reported Friday that over 100 Amazon workers, including some senior engineers, had signed a letter to their boss demanding their company stop selling Rekognition and to dump the data mining service Palantir from its cloud services, along with "any other Amazon partners who enable (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)."

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Further, the employees ask that Amazon "implement strong transparency and accountability measures" for police or companies that use Amazon's technology.

An earlier letter two weeks ago from 19 corporate shareholders specifically protested Rekognition, an app that is able to analyze police body cameras and surveillance systems in real-time.

"The undersigned Amazon (AMZN) shareholders are concerned such government surveillance infrastructure technology may not only pose a privacy threat to customers and other stakeholders across the country, but may also raise substantial risks for our company, negatively impactIng our company's stock valuation and increasing financial risk for shareholders," reads an excerpt from the June 15 letter, which the American Civil Liberties Union published June 18.

"There is substantial expert opinion indicating facial recognition software often replicates bias based on race and other factors. We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations," the stakeholders said. They were also concerned that, left unregulated, the technology's buyers "may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes."

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Sputnik previously reported in May, following an earlier ACLU report, on how Amazon was giving away the Rekognition facial recognition technology to law enforcement "for pennies." Roughly 40 civil liberties groups lodged a protest with the company at that time.

On May 25, two US congressional Democrats also penned a complaint to Bezos demanding answers about Rekognition and the incredible ease with which it was supplying American police departments with it. Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) gave Bezos until June 20 to answer their questions about purging the AI tech of bias and to elucidate who is using Rekognition, and for what.

Although that deadline has passed, it does not seem that Bezos has opted to reply to the lawmakers.

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