E-commerce giant Amazon has reportedly banned police agencies from using its facial recognition technology for one year in response to growing calls to sever ties with U.S. police departments.
CNBC reports that Amazon stated this week that it is banning the use of its facial recognition software by police for one year. “We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge,” Amazon said in a statement. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.”
The move comes as protests continue across the United States over the recent death of George Floyd. Some have welcomed Amazon’s decision to temporarily stop offering police access to its software. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), who serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform is hopeful that Congress will soon pass a bill regulating the use of facial recognition tech.
Discussing Amazon’s decision, Rep. Gomez stated: “It’s a good first step, but it’s still not enough.” He added: “They’re saying, ‘we’ve been asking Congress to put guardrails on the use of this technology,’ – but every time we tried to get more and more data they stalled – and we had to have hearings to make movement on the issue.”
Gomez stated that the committee has been attempting to find out more about Amazon’s technology and who it sells it to. The decision by Amazon comes just a few days after IBM announced that it was exiting the facial recognition business entirely.
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Congress in a letter in which he called for “national dialogue” on police reform:
IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any [facial recognition] technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency
We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.
Last year, Amazon claimed that racial bias complaints about its facial recognition were “misleading.”
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