Amazon is following IBM’s lead and is no longer allowing law enforcement agencies to use its facial recognition technology. However, Amazon’s decision comes with a few more caveats. While IBM completely ended its facial recognition program, Amazon only committed to a one-year moratorium, and indicated that it will still provide facial recognition services for organizations that are investigating human trafficking.
The decision is a response to the ongoing protests against police brutality in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Both Amazon and IBM encouraged legislators to pass more comprehensive facial recognition legislation, though IBM once again took things a step further and asked for significant police reforms.
“We hope this moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested,” Amazon said in a statement.
Civil rights advocates praised the decision, though the enthusiasm was somewhat measured given Amazon’s prior history with facial recognition. The company has vociferously defended the sale of facial recognition to law enforcement in the past, and even moved forward with a pilot program in Orlando despite considerable objections from shareholders and employees.
That pilot concerned Amazon’s Rekognition facial recognition platform. The Orlando Police Department never managed to conduct a live test of the technology, and the pilot was ultimately terminated last July. Previous reports have suggested that Amazon brought in $3 million through private-sector sales of Rekognition in 2018.
“Face recognition technology gives governments the unprecedented power to spy on us,” said Northern California ACLU Technology and Civil Liberties Director Nicole Ozer. “We urge Microsoft and other companies to join IBM, Google, and Amazon in moving towards the right side of history.”
June 11, 2020 – by Eric Weiss