Amazon extends facial recognition moratorium for police

Amazon extends facial recognition moratorium for police
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Amazon is extending its ban on police use of its facial recognition technology until further notice, the company confirmed Tuesday.

The company put the ban in place last June during protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to provide any further details to The Hill. Reuters first reported the extension.

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The company initially said the moratorium was being instituted in hopes it would give “Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules” governing facial recognition technology.

Although there have been a handful of proposals on the issue, none have gained any meaningful traction. 

Amazon has sold its Rekognition system to police departments to help them match photos of potential suspects with databases of mugshots and other pictures.

The technology has been criticized, including by Amazon’s own employees, as being less accurate in identifying people of color, among other critiques. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, released an expansive study in late 2019 finding that the majority of facial recognition systems on the market have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race. Amazon's tech was not evaluated in the study.

At least three Black men have been incorrectly arrested based on facial recognition matches and all of them are challenging those arrests in court. Rekognition was not used in any of those cases.

There is also concern about misuse of face matching technology by police and other law enforcement agencies.

Both IBM and Microsoft suspended their sales of facial recognition to law enforcement last summer.