Amazon announced a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, to give ample time to the governments to implement stronger regulations for racial equality and justice.
The decision comes amid the intensified protests in the killing of African American George Floyd and the campaign #BlackLivesMatter that arose with the protests seeking racial justice.
The e-commerce giant in a blog post said it has advocated that governments should implement stronger regulations to govern the tool’s ethical use.
Amazon added, “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.”
According to the firm, the Congress appears ready to take on this challenge in recent days.
Meanwhile, the company will continue to allow organizations like nonprofit Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use Amazon Rekognition. This would help them to rescue human trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families.
The surveillance technology, which can be used by the governments to spy on anyone, has been under scrutiny for years now.
Privacy activists such as American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU has been demanding stricter regulation of the technology for years over concerns that the tool is being used for racial discrimination.
ACLU in 2018 had conducted a trial with Rekognition, in which 28 members of Congress were found to be incorrectly matched with other people who were arrested for crimes.
Responding to ACLU’s blog about the trial, Amazon then said the results were misrepresented. The company also stated machine learning as a very valuable tool to help law enforcement agencies and asked the government to take steps to apply it correctly.
Amid the ongoing protests for racial equality, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna on June 8 wrote a letter to Congress stating that it would no longer develop or research facial recognition technology. He said the company firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.
He also urged to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.
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