Amazon puts one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology

Amazon puts one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology
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Amazon on Wednesday announced that it is placing a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition.

"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," the company wrote in a blog post.

"We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested," it added.

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Amazon said it will still allow organizations to use Rekognition to help rescue human trafficking victims and find missing children.

The company's decision to block police use of its facial recognition technology comes amid concern from activists and civil rights groups that law enforcement may be using Rekognition to identify individuals participating in the anti-police brutality demonstrations that have erupted across the nation since the death of George Floyd.

It also comes on the heels of IBM ending its facial recognition business.

As of Monday, IBM will no longer release software packages or develop, create, research or sell facial recognition software itself.

Even before the protests, facial recognition technology had been criticized as a tool for unwarranted surveillance, while multiple studies have found that it tends to misidentify women and people of color at comparatively higher rates than men and white people.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, released an expansive study in December finding that the majority of facial recognition systems have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race.