Amazon under greater shareholder pressure to limit sale of facial recognition tech to the government

This week could mark a considerable setback for Amazon’s facial recognition company if privacy and civil liberties advocates — and some shareholders — get their way.

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Months earlier, shareholders tabled a resolution to limit the sale of Amazon’s facial recognition tech giant calls Rekognition to law enforcement and government agencies. It followed accusations of bias and inaccuracies with the technologies, which they say can be utilized to racially discriminate against minorities. Rekognition, which runs image and video evaluation of faces, has been sold to two states so far and Amazon has pitched Immigrations & Customs Enforcement. A second resolution will need an independent human and civil rights assessment of the technologies.

Now the ACLU is backing the measures and calling on shareholders to pass the the resolutions.

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“Amazon has stayed the course,” mentioned Shankar Narayan, director of the Technologies and Liberty Project at the ACLU Washington, in a contact Friday. “Amazon has heard repeatedly about the dangers to our democracy and vulnerable communities about this technology but they have refused to acknowledge those dangers let alone address them,” he mentioned.

“Amazon has been so non-responsive to these concerns,” mentioned Narayan, “even Amazon’;s own shareholders have been forced to resort to putting these proposals addressing those concerns on the ballot.”

It’s the newest move in a concerted work by dozens of shareholders and investment firms, tech professionals and academics, and privacy and rights groups and organizations who have decried the use of the technologies.

Critics say Amazon Rekognition has accuracy and bias problems. (Image: TechCrunch)

In a letter to be presented at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, the ACLU will accuse Amazon of “failing to act responsibly” by refusing to quit the sale of the technologies to the government.

“This technology fundamentally alters the balance of power between government and individuals, arming governments with unprecedented power to track, control, and harm people,” mentioned the letter, shared with TechCrunch. “It would enable police to instantaneously and automatically determine the identities and locations of people going about their daily lives, allowing government agencies to routinely track their own residents. Associated software may even display dangerous and likely inaccurate information to police about a person’s emotions or state of mind.”

“As shown by a long history of other surveillance technologies, face surveillance is certain to be disproportionately aimed at immigrants, religious minorities, people of color, activists, and other vulnerable communities,” the letter added.

“Without shareholder action, Amazon may soon become known more for its role in facilitating pervasive government surveillance than for its consumer retail operations,” it study.

Facial recognition has turn out to be a single of the most hot button subjects in privacy in years. Amazon Rekognition, its cloud-primarily based facial recognition program, remains in its infancy however a single of the most prominent and readily available systems readily available. But critics say the technologies is flawed. Precisely a year prior to this week’s shareholder meeting, the ALCU initially raised “profound” issues with Rekognition and its installation at airports, public locations and by police. Because then, the technologies was shown to struggle to detect persons of colour. In its tests, the program struggled to match 28 congresspeople who had been falsely matched in a mugshot database who had been previously arrested.

But there has been pushback — even from government. Numerous municipalities have rolled out surveillance-curtailing laws and ordnances in the previous year. San Francisco final week became the initially main U.S. city government to ban the use of facial recognition.

“Amazon leadership has failed to recognize these issues,” mentioned the ACLU’s letter to be presented Wednesday. “This failure will lead to real-life harm.”

The ACLU mentioned shareholders “have the power to protect Amazon from its own failed judgment.”

Amazon has pushed back against the claims by arguing that the technologies is correct — largely by criticizing how the ACLU carried out its tests utilizing Rekognition.

Amazon did not comment when reached prior to publication.

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