Amazon just announced that it's going to suspend police use of its controversial facial recognition technology for one year (AMZN)
- On Wednesday, Amazon announced it would suspend police use of its controversial facial recognition technology Rekognition for one year.
- Amazon last week put out a statement against police brutality and systemic racism, but advocates pointed out that Amazon works with many police departments and that studies have shown that Rekognition is biased against Black people and other people with darker skin.
- Amazon still plans to sell Rekognition to groups that help rescue human trafficking systems.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Amazon announced Wednesday that it will suspend police use of its controversial facial recognition technology for one year after advocates and workers slammed the company for supporting the George Floyd protesters while still promoting its technology to police.
Amazon Web Services has sold its facial recognition software, called Rekognition, to police departments across the country, but numerous studies have found bias in the software that disproportionately target Black people and other darker-skinned people. Just last week, Amazon made statements against police brutality and systemic racism amid protests against police brutality that erupted after the death of George Floyd.
This rung hollow to many advocates, as AWS had still been working with police departments while studies have shown that Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched, or killed by police. Previously, study led by MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini in 2019 found Rekognition had difficulty in identifying gender in darker-skinned faces and female faces.
Also, the American Civil Liberties Union found in 2018 that the software incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress with people who have been arrested for a crime, and that false matches were disproportionately of people of color, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Amazon says it still plans to allow organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use Amazon Rekognition to help rescue human trafficking victims. It also says it advocated for governments to add stronger regulations governing how facial recognition technology can be used.
“We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested,” an Amazon blog post said.
This move follows IBM’s decision to also stop selling facial recognition software and call a “national dialogue” on the way the technology is used for law enforcement.
Several advocacy groups, including the ACLU and MediaJustice, had already called on Amazon to stop selling the software to law enforcement. Amazon still works with more than 600 police departments across country to enable officers to request video footage from people’s Ring devices in the area of a suspected crime. Just Tuesday, police pinned to the ground and arrested a Black Amazon delivery driver for parking the wrong way in Warren, Michigan, and this department uses Ring, FOX 2 Detroit reported.
In the past, AWS CEO Andy Jassy dismissed employees’ concerns about selling Rekognition to law enforcement. He said that the company’s terms of service would prevent its software from being used for bad purposes, although in a recent interview, he that the company isn’t aware of how police are using it, or even how many police departments even have access.
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