Shareholders Demand Amazon CEO Stops Selling Facial Recognition Tech to Police

Amazon shareholders have sent a letter to the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos requesting for the online retailer to stop selling its facial analysis program Rekognition to law enforcement.

Signed by 19 groups of Amazon’s shareholders, the letter expressed concern over a potential privacy threat of government surveillance with the use of Rekognition.

“The undersigned Amazon shareholders are concerned such government surveillance infrastructure technology may not only pose a privacy threat to customers and other stakeholders across the country, but may also raise substantial risks for our Company, negatively impacting our company’s stock valuation and increasing financial risk for shareholders” said the letter.

“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations.”

What Is Rekognition?

The program, which was released in 2016, can identify people, objects, text and activities in real time while also providing highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition. With Rekognition you can detect, analyze and compare faces using the programs image and video libraries.

Image via Amazon

Less than a month ago, Amazon’s real-time facial recognition technology made headlines when the Orlando Police Department became the first American police station to employ the Amazon’s facial recognition services. The use of Rekognition by the OPD sparked concern from privacy activists who believe that such technology would violate civil and human rights. This led to a formal request the American Civil Liberties Union urging Amazon to stop marketing its facial analysis program.

“By making this dangerous technology cheaply and easily available, Amazon is uniquely positioned to spread face surveillance throughout government agencies, and it has been working behind the scenes to do so for years.“ said Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project in an updated publication for the ACLU website regarding their efforts to stop Amazon from selling the facial recognition service.

Amazon’s 19 shareholders named in the letter do not represent enough voting power to force any sort of change within the company, with Bezos being the largest individual shareholder.

Bezos and Amazon have yet to respond to the shareholder’s letter, though last month, the company delivered a written statement to the Associated Press stating that all customers using their products should be responsible and comply with the law.

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