Amazon temporarily prohibits police from using facial recognition technology

Amazon has decided to ban the police from using its facial recognition software Rekognition for a year, amid pressure from freedom groups and protests against police violence and racism in the United States.

• Read also: Amazon urged to stop supporting police with surveillance technology

“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.

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 to the police and surveillance systems, which they considered to be disproportionately targeting black people.

The Democrat-majority House of Representatives introduced legislation Monday to “change the culture” in the United States police.

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.

“We hope this year-long moratorium will give Congress enough time to put in place appropriate rules,” Amazon said in its statement on Wednesday.

Pressure

Organizations such as the powerful American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have been calling on Amazon for two years to stop supplying facial recognition technology to law enforcement.

The pressure escalated on Tuesday when anti-racial inequality organizations urged Amazon to end all technological collaboration with the United States police.

In their online petition, they accuse the Seattle group of “feeding and profiting from systematic injustice, inequality 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 computing), 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 people safe, but their owners can give police video surveillance if they want.

Awareness

“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”.

Amazon had recognized in October that, “like all technologies”, facial recognition could be “misused”. She said her teams were providing guidance to all Rekognition (software) customers, “including law enforcement, on how to use 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 .

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.”

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