Featured News

Amazon shareholders urge halt to facial recognition sale

Amazon shareholders have spoken out against the firm selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement.

The demand to prevent the sale of the Rekognition technology will continue unless the board of directors determines the technology “does not cause or contribute to actual or potential violations of civil and human rights.”

Rekognition can conduct image and video analyses of faces, as well as identify and track people and their emotions.

Amazon has reportedly sold Rekognition to law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, in at least two states in the US. Amazon has also reportedly met with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discuss the tech.

Earlier this week, letters from a US coalition of more than 85 activist groups urged the companies to avoid selling their facial recognition technology to the US government.

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

The coalition, which is made up of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 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.

The ACLU reported in May that it discovered Rekognition had wrongly identified 28 members of Congress, disproportionately confusing Congress members of colour as criminals.

“It’s a familiar pattern: a leading tech company marketing what is hailed as breakthrough technology without understanding or assessing the many real and potential harms of that product,” said Michael Connor, executive director of the nonprofit organisation Open MIC that represents a group of shareholders that represent a total of $1.32bn (£1.02bn/€1.16bn) in assets under management, in a blog post.

“Sales of Rekognition to government represent considerable risk for the company and investors. That’s why it’s imperative those sales be halted immediately.”

Shareholders intend for this resolution to be voted on in Amazon’s annual meeting this spring.

Amazon declined a request from TechCrunch to comment on the story.

Image: teguhjatipras