Amazon will ban the use of its facial recognition software by the police for one year. This abruptly shows how quickly the dynamics of law enforcement technology are changing.
The police use of Amazon's recognition software was the subject of Criticism through civil rights Groups for years, but Amazon has repeatedly defended the virtues of law enforcement technology. The company soon changed its mindset blog entry Released Wednesday.
"We have been in favor of governments imposing stricter regulations to regulate the ethical use of facial recognition technologies, and Congress seems to be ready to face the challenge in the past few days," said Amazon. "We hope that this one-year moratorium will give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules and we are ready to help on request."
The announcement comes two days later IBM said it would handle its facial recognition products in response to the national racial justice movement.
This is a pretty tight hold – only when used by the police and not when collecting facial data or providing additional access or deletion rights.
I mean it's still a win. But doesn't address many problems. https://t.co/mHGT1NbqiR
– Amie Stepanovich (@astepanovich) June 10, 2020
Studies by ACLU and MIT in recent years have shown that facial recognition software misidentifies women and colored people more often than white men, leading to concerns that the technology is disproportionate to communities that have already been over-observed. Amazon disputed the results of these reports, but a federal study released in December increased concern among civil rights groups. It turned out that Asian and African American people were misidentified up to 100 times more often than white men. according to the Washington Post.
"It took Amazon two years to reach this point, but we're happy that the company is finally realizing the dangers of recognizing black and brown communities and broader civil rights," said ACLU of Nicole Ozer from Northern California in a statement.
"We urge Microsoft and other companies to go to the right side of the story with IBM, Google and Amazon," she added.
Amazon said it would continue to allow organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use recognition to "save trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families."