On May 18, 2021, Amazon announced that it is expanding its restrictions on enforcement use of its facial recognition software, citing ongoing questions about racism in the software.
Human rights activists applauded the software giant’s intention to maintain a ban on the selling of facial recognition systems to police forces.
Last June, the software giant declared a one-year ban on police usage of its “Rekognition” system, claiming that the delay will allow Congress to pass protections against abuse of facial recognition.
The company’s decision is said to be concerning nationwide demonstrations shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. After civil rights advocates complained that Amazon’s software mistakenly identified various ethnic categories. Police may also use it to monitor and harass the African-American population. The corporation announced a suspension to allow the national government time to pass federal laws to regulate its use.
Activists further claim that advanced technologies can employ systems that oppress Black people, whether deliberately or unintentionally. They’ve gone into Amazon Web Services’ “Rekognition” facial recognition software and Ring video cameras, which are used for home monitoring. The extent to which police had used the devices was unclear.
Last year, Amazon called for “stricter rules to regulate the ethical use of facial recognition technologies” from governments.
Amazon’s attempt to extend the prohibition, first announced by Reuters on Tuesday, aligns the firm with Microsoft, which placed an indefinite suspension on its face recognition software last year. IBM has previously stated that it would discontinue its facial recognition product. Further information was not provided by Amazon.
According to reports published last week, civil rights activists have revived demands on Amazon to prohibit the use of the app by police forces completely. The reports also noted the possibility that police officers might use it to wiretap and harass Black populations.
In an interview, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Nathan Freed Wessler, stated, “We are glad that Amazon will extend its moratorium on law enforcement use of the company’s face recognition technology.” He also added that the ACLU’s move will now focus on promoting stricter rules and regulations.
Evan Greer from the activist organization “Fight for the Future” said, “Facial recognition technology is too dangerous for it to be implemented at the whims of corporations like Amazon.”
The decision to prolong the ban arrives instead of Amazon’s annual conference on May 26, where investors will decide on a resolution to perform a third-party investigation on the dangers of state use of its Rekognition tools—a move Amazon has asked shareholders to decide against.