Amazon’s own employees have now joined the chorus of voices calling for the company to halt its sale of biometric surveillance technology to law enforcement and other government agencies. Their demand has surfaced in an open letter to Jeff Bezos with an undisclosed number of signatories.
The letter has arrived immediately after another open letter, signed by a number of prominent Amazon shareholders, also called on Bezos to stop providing law enforcement agencies with Rekognition, a machine vision system that allows administrators to identify the faces of individuals through public surveillance cameras. Amazon’s sale of the technology to government agencies came to light through an ACLU report published toward the end of May.
In this latest open letter, Amazon’s employees ask not only that the company stop selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement, but that it also cancel its Amazon Web Services contract with Palantir, a firm that offers analytical tools to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE’s deliberate separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border, a violation of international law, has prompted widespread outrage.
“Our company should not be in the surveillance business; we should not be in the policing business; we should not be in the business of supporting those who monitor and oppress marginalized populations,” the letter asserts.
The employees’ letter does not make an explicit threat concerning potential resignations or strikes on the part of Amazon’s workers, but the symbolism of the company’s own employees protesting against work they see as unethical adds further pressure to Amazon to cancel its government sales of Rekognition, at least from a PR perspective.
June 25, 2018 – by Alex Perala