Amazon Bans US Police From Using its Facial Recognition Tech

Amazon has banned the police from using its controversial facial-recognition technology Rekognition for a year amidst the protests over police brutality and racial profiling.

The software, amongst other facial recognition software, has been accused of potential racial biases in surveillance technology. The e-commerce giant has not provided a concrete reason for the decision beyond calling for federal regulation of the tech.

In its statement, Amazon said:

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. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.

This news comes two days after IBM announced that it would no longer offer, develop, or research facial recognition technology due to the potential human rights and privacy violations.

The racial biases in facial recognition software being used by the US police were proved in 2018 by Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, and Timnit Gebru, a member at Microsoft Research. The two authored a paper that found error rates for facial recognition systems from major tech companies higher for darker-skinned individuals then for identifying white-skinned individuals. According to the paper, the main reason behind this is inconsistent and biased training datasets.