Amazon’s True Face?

Amazon’s True Face?

Shareholder proposals aimed at stymying the company’s future in facial recognition failed at its annual meeting.

Amazon can continue to sell its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, to whomever it pleases—government and law enforcement included.

Two controversial proposals made by shareholders at the company’s annual meeting would have seen Amazon barred from selling Rekognition to government agencies without first ensuring the protection of civil liberties and guaranteed an independent study of potential privacy/human rights issues associated with widespread surveillance. 

Yet Amazon successfully persuaded shareholders of Rekognition’s “material benefits to both society and organizations.” Google and Microsoft might disagree—they’ve limited the applications of their respective surveillance tech.

Though the proposals failed, their existence shows that Amazon will be defending the use of its Rekognition technology for years to come.

The fact that a vote was even held demonstrates that shareholders lack confidence in the idea that company executives properly understand or “are addressing the civil and human rights impacts of their role in facilitating pervasive government surveillance,” said the ACLU’s Shankar Narayan.

Amazon’s shareholders aren’t the first to critique surveillance tech as a tool of the “police state.” Remember when San Francisco banned its police department using facial recognition? The issue is a highly divisive one among both citizens and government.

Last week, a House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the subject. The verdict? Bipartisanship isn’t dead. Both parties’ leaders agreed it’s time to take a long, hard look at facial recognition tech—and potentially draft legislation to keep it in line.


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