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Amazon shareholders reject proposed ban on selling facial recognition tech to governments

Image by Bill Kerr

Amazon’s shareholders have rejected two proposals to stop and audit its facial recognition technology, reports Reuters. The first proposal would have required Amazon to limit the sale of its Rekognition technology to police, law enforcement, and federal agencies. The second would have demanded an independent human and civil society review into the use of that technology. It’s worth noting that the vote was non-binding and the company could have rejected the resolutions.

The proposals came after allegations that the AI has biases and could be used to racially discriminate against minorities. Rekognition is a facial recognition technology which runs image and video analysis of faces in real-time, and has been sold to two states in the US. Amazon has also pitched it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What ACLU said to Amazon shareholders

American civil liberties organisation the ACLU had said that Amazon had not responded to its concerns. In an open letter to Amazon shareholders right before the vote, ACLU accused the company of “failing to act responsibly” by refusing to sell the technology 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. 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,” said the ACLU.

… aggressive marketing of face surveillance technology to law enforcement presents an unprecedented threat to our civil liberties and privacy, and it is incompatible with a healthy democracy.

The union also reiterated that surveillance technologies have historically targeted immigrants, religious minorities, people of colour, activists, and other vulnerable communities. Amazon pushed back against claims that the technology is inaccurate, and called on the US Securities and Exchange Commission to block the shareholder proposal prior to its annual shareholder meeting.

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