Amazon extends ban on US police using its facial recognition technology

Amazon has announced plans to extend a ban on US police using its controversial facial recognition technology ‘Rekognition’.

In June last year, Amazon said it was banning US police forces from using its facial recognition software in support of the #BlackLivesMatter protests sweeping the US.

The software had been sold to numerous police forces in the years prior to the ban, allowing them to scan and identify people’s faces with body worn cameras in real time.

Independent studies of this software 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”.

According to Reuters, Amazon has now extended the moratorium imposed on police indefinitely, though it has not commented on its reasoning.

READ MORE: Amazon bans police from using its facial recognition technology “that fuels racial profiling” in support of BLM

When it originally banned the technology last year, 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.”

Despite its hopes that Congress could put rules in place to ensure the ethical use of the technology, now such law has yet materialised.

In the UK, London’s Metropolitan Police placed similar live facial recognition CCTV cameras outside some of the capital’s busiest shopping destinations in March last year, aimed at finding “people who are wanted for violent and other serious crimes”.

The trial saw the cameras scan more than 13,200 shoppers’ faces, leading to just one arrest giving privacy campaigners more ammunition to doubt its efficacy.

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