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Amazon Places One-Year Moratorium On Police Use Of Facial Recognition Technology

Amazon Places One-Year Moratorium On Police Use Of Facial Recognition Technology

Amazon Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced Wednesday it would prohibit the police use of Rekognition, its facial recognition software, for one year after outrage swept the United States over the killing of George Floyd, an African-American by a white policeman in Minneapolis.

What Happened

Launched in 2016, Amazon Web Service’s Rekognition is described as a “service that makes it easy to add image analysis to your applications.” 

The retail giant announced on its day one blog, “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.”

The service has been pitched to law enforcement agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Among the current users are the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which claimed they were able to index 300,000 photos using Rekognition in just 1-2 days. 

In their testimonial, the sheriff’s office remarked, “The identification time of suspects went from 2-3 days down to minutes.”

Why It Matters

Research has shown that facial recognition technology may be prone to racial and gender biases. 

There is increasing pressure on tech companies to respond to the killing of George Floyd, reported CNBC.

Findings by the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology graduate researcher Joy Buolamwini, who established the Algorithmic Justice League, helped spur an Amazon shareholder vote last year calling for a ban on the use of face recognition technology by government agencies. 2.4% of the shareholders voted in favor.

International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE: IBM) has already discontinued offering general-purpose facial recognition or analysis software, saying it no longer condones the practice.

Amazon Price Action

Amazon shares traded 0.62% lower at $2,631 in the after-hours session on Wednesday. The shares had closed the regular session 1.79% higher at $2,647.45. 


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