House Democrat presses Amazon on facial recognition business

House Democrat presses Amazon on facial recognition business
© Aaron Schwartz

Rep. Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC predicts US death toll could reach 145,000 by July 11; Premier President Michael Alkire says more resiliency needed in health supply chain Hillicon Valley: Senate Republicans, DOJ target Section 230 | Facial recognition under the spotlight | Zoom launches E2E encrypted beta House Democrat presses Amazon on facial recognition business MORE (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosJeff Bezos's wealth hits record high 1B How competition will make the new space race flourish Just because Democrats are paranoid about the election doesn't mean there aren't problems MORE Wednesday pressing the Amazon CEO for information about the company's one-year moratorium on selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement.

The e-commerce giant announced last week that its facial recognition tech, Rekognition, will not be sold directly to police for the next 12 months. The announcement, which came amid rising scrutiny of the technology driven by anti-police brutality protests, immediately drew criticism.

"While I am encouraged by the direction Amazon appears to be taking on this issue, the ambiguity of the announcement raises more questions than answers," wrote Gomez, a member of the House Oversight and Reform and Ways and Means committees.

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The California lawmaker pointed out that the 102-word announcement does not say whether Amazon will continue to develop its facial recognition tech during the moratorium, whether the freeze will extend to local and federal law enforcement beyond federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement or whether it applies to current contracts with law enforcement.

Gomez included in the letter a list of questions about Rekognition, noting that many of them have been asked before but not answered "adequately."

The requests include information about internal accuracy reports, records of all law enforcement and intelligence agencies with which Amazon has communicated about the tech and information about whether Rekognition has been integrated into any police body cameras.

"Amazon — as a global leader in technology and innovation — has a unique opportunity before them to put substantive action behind their sentiments of 'solidarity with the Black community' by not selling a flawed product to police, and instead, play a critical role in ending systemic racism in our nation’s criminal justice system," Gomez wrote.