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New York: Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Amazon bans police from using its facial recognition software

Amazon bans police from using its facial recognition software

Amazon announced last Wednesday that it will ban the police from using its facial recognition program (called Rekognition) for a year, and called for strong government regulations so that in future its technology is used ethically.

“We uphold stricter government regulations on the ethical use of facial recognition technologies, and Congress appears ready to meet that challenge,” Amazon said in a statement posted online.

That decision comes in the context of protests against police violence and racism in the United States. According to the New York Times, this software has been criticized for its failure to recognize black people.

In any case, Amazon’s decision is not the only one, since this week the computer giant IBM also announced that it will prohibit the use of this type of software by the Police, and Axon, one of the largest companies of police cameras, has also banned its use by security forces following protests over the death of George Floyd.

Amazon’s announcement comes after several groups for racial equality launched an online petition this week asking the company to cut its ties to the police and US immigration services.

The petition alludes to Rekognition technology and Ring home surveillance cameras. “Amazon must examine its structural role in the systematic oppression of the black population,” said Myaisha Hayes, the director of campaign strategies for the NGO Media Justice.

Amazon’s “surveillance empire” could be used by police to harass people based on their race, making the company complicit in such abuses, Media Justice and others who signed the petition said.

It is unclear to what extent Rekognition is used in the police and immigration services.

Ring cameras sold by Amazon are used for home security, but their owners can share access to surveillance videos with the police if they want.

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