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US coalition urges tech firms to withhold facial recognition from government

Letters to Microsoft, Amazon and Google from a coalition of more than 85 activist groups are urging the companies to avoid selling their facial recognition technology to the US government.

The letters, sent yesterday (Tuesday), cautioned the firms that supplying the government with such tech “threatens the safety of community members and will also undermine public trust,” Fortune reports.

The coalition, which is made up of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild chapters, and Freedom of the Press Foundation, added that the software gives the government the power to target immigrants, religious minorities, and people of colour.

“Companies can’t continue to pretend that the ‘break-then-fix’ approach works,” Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director for the ACLU of California, said in a statement.

“We are at a crossroads with face surveillance, and the choices made by these companies now will determine whether the next generation will have to fear being tracked by the government for attending a protest, going to their place of worship, or simply living their lives.”

In December, Google committed to hold back on selling its facial recognition technology until its potential risks are assessed.

The move came after several Google employees quit in protest of the company’s $10bn (£7.7bn/€8.7bn) bid for a contract with the Pentagon over cloud data centre services. It later withdrew its bid, though Microsoft said it had no intentions of withdrawing.

Meanwhile, the FBI began piloting Amazon software Rekognition, and the firm also reportedly met with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discuss the tech.

Image: Pixabay