Amazon employees complained to CEO Jeff Bezos about the company’s facial recognition contracts with the U.S. government and police, accusing Bezos of aiding “immoral U.S. policy” and providing a list of demands.
According to Business Insider, employees claimed “Amazon is enabling the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” and declared in a letter that Amazon is “providing infrastructure” to “immoral U.S. policy.”
“We are troubled by the recent report from the ACLU exposing our company’s practice of selling AWS Rekognition, a powerful facial recognition technology, to police departments and government agencies. We don’t have to wait to find out how these technologies will be used,” wrote the employees in their letter to Bezos. “We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized. We are not alone in this view: over 40 civil rights organizations signed an open letter in opposition to the governmental use of facial recognition, while over 150,000 individuals signed another petition delivered by the ACLU.”
“Along with much of the world we watched in horror recently as U.S. authorities tore children away from their parents,” they continued. “In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.’s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.”
The employees also demanded that Bezos kick Trump-supporting billionaire Peter Thiel’s company Palantir off of Amazon’s cloud services, and compared Amazon helping the U.S. government to IBM’s systems being used by Adolf Hitler in World War 2.
“We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights. As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” they proclaimed. “We learn from history, and we understand how IBM’s systems were employed in the 1940s to help Hitler. IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late. We will not let that happen again. The time to act is now.”
In their list of demands, the Amazon employee requested the company to:
Stop selling facial recognition services to law enforcement
Stop providing infrastructure to Palantir and any other Amazon partners who enable ICE.
Implement strong transparency and accountability measures, that include enumerating which law enforcement agencies and companies supporting law enforcement agencies are using Amazon services, and how.Our company should not be in the surveillance business; we should not be in the policing business; we should not be in the business of supporting those who monitor and oppress marginalized populations.
This month, Amazon shareholders also attempted to convince Bezos to stop Amazon facial recognition contracts with law enforcement, claiming the contracts “pose a privacy threat to customers and other stakeholders across the country.”
It is also not the first employee open letter sent to Bezos this month, with over 400 Washington Post employees demanding better pay and work benefits last week.
Microsoft employees have also been rebelling against their company over contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while numerous Google employees quit over their company’s contract with the Pentagon.