Amazon has officially banned all police officers from using their controversial facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for a whole year.
Amazon has prohibited police departments from using their controversial facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for a whole year until this software can be more properly regulated. The decision was announced on Wednesday, June 10th.
“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,” Amazon said in a statement. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.” Rekognition has been used by both police and ICE to help catch criminals and target or identify immigrants, respectively. However, the software has been subject to plenty of criticism for more frequently misidentifying Black and Asian people than white people.
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Although Amazon hopes that a year will be enough time for Congress to develop and pass legislation that will regulate the use of this technology by law enforcement agencies, the American Civil Liberties Union is requesting that the ban be put in place indefinitely.
"It took two years for Amazon to get to this point, but we’re glad the company is finally recognizing the dangers face recognition poses to Black and Brown communities and civil rights more broadly,” said Nicole Ozer, the ACLU’s technology and civil liberties director. However, she notes that “this surveillance technology’s threat to our civil rights and civil liberties will not disappear in a year."
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Of course, police are not thrilled with this decision. “Amazon Rekognition has greatly increased the ability of our law enforcement officers to act quickly and decisively,” said Chris Adzima, an analyst at the Washington County Sheriff Office in Oregon. "We were able to index more than 300,000 photo records within 1-2 days, and the identification time of suspects went from 2-3 days down to minutes."