Amazon puts one-year moratorium on selling face recognition tech to law enforcement

Just days after Democrats in Congress introduced a police reform bill that included provisions addressing facial recognition and body cams in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Amazon said it would put a one-year moratorium on selling its face recognition offering to law enforcement.

And, IBM said it would pull out of the facial recognition market altogether. Amazon’s move is a victory of sorts for rights organizations that have long criticized the privacy and surveillance issues raised by facial recognition technology as well as its inaccuracies that could result in misidentification, particularly among people of color.

"It took two years for Amazon to get to this point, but we’re glad the company is finally recognizing the dangers face recognition poses to Black and Brown communities and civil rights more broadly,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director at the ACLU, warning the moratorium won’t fix the problems. 

“This surveillance technology’s threat to our civil rights and civil liberties will not disappear in a year,” she said. “Amazon must fully commit to a blanket moratorium on law enforcement use of face recognition until the dangers can be fully addressed, and it must press Congress and legislatures across the country to do the same.”

Ozer called for the company, which the ACLU has hammered for its sale of its Rekognition technology to law enforcement, to “commit to stop selling surveillance systems like Ring,” noting that facial recognition technology technology hands “governments the unprecedented power to spy on us wherever we go.” She urged other companies like Microsoft “in moving towards the right side of history.”

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