Despite protests from several associations, Amazon shareholders refused to prohibit the IT giant from selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. Proposals calling for a ban, as well as an independent study on the uses of Rekognition technology, were indeed rejected at the general assembly of the American group on Wednesday, the latter told AFP.
The board of directors of Jeff Bezos’ group was against these motions presented by shareholders worried about possible threats to privacy and civil rights associated with this technology. They argued in particular that several police services are testing this system and that according to the press, Amazon has offered it to the border police, who may use it to monitor migrants.
Programs prone to error …
Last year, in an open letter, more than 30 activist groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged Amazon to stop providing its facial recognition technology to police, saying the tool gives it “a dangerous supervisory power ”. Amazon is one of several companies in the United States and other countries deploying facial recognition for security services and law enforcement.
Surveys have shown that such programs are prone to error, especially when it comes to identifying non-white people. Activists further argue that these systems build a large database of biometric information that can be abused. Specifically, Amazon shareholders were asking in their motion that the group refrain from selling Rekognition to government agencies unless it is independently proven that it would not contribute to violating citizens’ rights.
” New technology should not be banned or condemned because of potential misuse ”, argued Amazon’s board of directors in preparatory documents for the general meeting. The popularization of facial recognition – present even in some smartphones – has increased concerns about its uses. San Francisco last week became the first city in the United States to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and other government agencies.