It was a long-standing request from certain organizations in the United States such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). On Wednesday June 10, Amazon decided to ban police from using its facial recognition software, Rekognition, for one year. “We are pushing for tighter government regulations on the ethical use of facial recognition technologies, and Congress appears ready to take up the challenge,” the online commerce giant said in a statement on Wednesday. Amazon hopes that Congress will have time during the year to put regulations in place.
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Since the death of George Floyd, an African-American asphyxiated by a white police officer two weeks ago, businesses, as well as local and national authorities, have been trying to react to pressure from the street and social networks. The protesters demanded in particular far-reaching reforms of the police and surveillance systems, which they considered to be disproportionately targeting black people. The House of Representatives, with a majority of Democrats, presented a law Monday which aims to “change the culture” within the police of the United States. In particular, it intends to create a national register for police officers committing blunders, facilitate legal proceedings against officers and rethink their recruitment and training.
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The pressure went up a notch on Tuesday, when associations combating racial inequality urged Amazon to stop all technological collaboration with the American police. In their online petition, they accuse the Seattle group of “feeding and profiting from systematic injustice, inequalities and violence against black communities”.
“Amazon has long sought to be the technological backbone of the police and the ICE (immigration police, editor’s note) by actively promoting Amazon Web Services (cloud), its facial recognition software (Rekognition) and its cameras. surveillance (Ring) “, elaborated Athena, a group of associations which question the group on the negative impacts of its various activities. Ring cameras are used to keep individuals safe, but their owners can give the police access to video surveillance if they wish.
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“It has taken Amazon two years to get there, but we are pleased that the company has finally recognized the dangers of facial recognition for people of color, as well as in terms of civil rights in general,” said reacted Wednesday Nicole Ozer, director of technologies and liberties for a Californian branch of the ACLU. She would like the multinational to also stop selling Ring cameras “which fuel excessive police intervention against people of color”.
IBM, Google …
Amazon had recognized in October that, “like all technologies”, facial recognition could be “misused”. It had assured that its teams provided indications to all the customers of the (software) Rekognition, “including the police force, on the good manner of using it”. Jeff Bezos’ group said the moratorium would not apply to organizations that use Rekognition to rescue victims of human trafficking or find missing children, such as Thorn or the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children .
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IBM announced Monday it will suspend the sale of facial recognition software for identification purposes and “opposed the use of any technology for the purposes of mass surveillance, racial profiling and violations of human rights and freedoms basic”. During a speech in Brussels, Sundar Pichai, the boss of Google, had explained in January that Google would not provide a turnkey facial recognition service until rules and safeguards were put in place by the authorities. Nicole Ozer called “Microsoft and the others to join IBM, Google and Amazon to move on to the right side of the story”.