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Amazon issues a one-year ban on police use of its facial recognition tech

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Amazon Logo (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Amazon has banned the use of its facial recognition tech by the police for a year.
  • It has asked the Congress to enforce stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition tech.
  • Earlier this week, IBM announced that it was getting out of the facial recognition business.

Amazon today announced that it is implementing a one-year moratorium on police use of its controversial 'Rekognition' facial recognition technology. The announcement comes just days after IBM decided to exit the facial recognition business amid criticism that most commercial facial recognition systems have a racial and gender bias.

The e-commerce giant said in a statement:

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.

Needless to say, however, the actual reason behind the move is the death of George Floyd and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos publicly proclaimed his support for the movement earlier this week and even responded to emails from customers angry over the company's stance.

As noted by CNBC, the official Rekognition website (opens in new tab) currently lists only the Washington County Sheriff Office in Oregon as a customer. Amazon had rolled out (opens in new tab) Rekognition in 2016 as a service to "detect objects, scenes, and faces in images." In 2019, Rekognition became a topic of controversy after a study by Joy Buolamwini and Deborah Raji found that it wasn't as efficient as facial recognition systems from IBM and Microsoft when it came to identifying the gender of female and darker-skinned individuals.

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Babu Mohan
Babu Mohan
2 Comments
  • That's fine. Let another smaller company do it for law enforcement and make millions. Amazon finally letting the smaller guys make money.
  • Maybe they could use the year to make their facial recognition less biased, so it would actually benefit law enforcement.
    P.S. Biased is a human term/trait that doesn't really fit AI. Really it is more diverse training, but there isn't a good word for that, AFAIK.