Amazon is banning US police forces from using its facial recognition software for a year in support of the #BlackLivesMatter protests.
Rekognition, Amazon’s facial recognition technology which is able to identify people’s faces in real time, has been sold to a number of US police forces over the past few years with the aim of using it in conjunction with police body cameras.
Amazon said it wanted to give law enforcement and lawmakers time to review and implement legislation on how to effectively regulate this technology.
“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.
“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 to implement a one-year moratorium on police using the software comes after Amazon was accused of being hypocritical for continuing to supply police with the software while publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the globe.
Activist Jancita Gonzales of grassroots human rights group Mijente told The Guardian: “It is opportunistic of Amazon to use this moment to make empty and hypocritical statements when it is simultaneously building the backbone for many police departments across the country”.
Independent studies of this software also found that it disproportionately misidentified people who were non-white, and it has been widely condemned by human rights groups over its ability to “violate rights and target communities of colour”.
The implications of the technologies inherent racial bias has also encouraged IBM to withdraw its facial recognition technology from use by law enforcement agencies.
It has also received widespread condemnation within congress, with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeting yesterday that “facial recognition is a horrifying, inaccurate tool that fuels racial profiling and mass surveillance,” and “shouldn’t be anywhere near law enforcement”.