Amazon Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) barred police from using its facial-recognition software almost a year ago, saying it would prohibit them from using it for a year. Now the online retailer says it will extend the ban “until further notice.”
Amazon keeps police from using Rekognition
Amazon's facial-recognition software is called Rekognition, and the e-commerce giant may not ever allow police to use it. CNN notes that facial-recognition technology can be used for everything from making sure only certain people can enter an office building to tracking people across the internet.
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Many police departments across the U.S. use facial-recognition technology to track potential suspects, although the technology isn't always accurate. Some men have been wrongfully arrested because of the technology.
Amazon stopped selling Rekognition to police departments in June 2020 amid broad-based protests against violence by police in the U.S., starting with the death of George Floyd. The online retailer said in a blog post at the time that it had urged governments to regulate the use of facial-recognition technology.
Hoping for government to regulate facial recognition
It had hoped that a year would be enough time for Congress to pass laws governing the use of such technology in the U.S. Amazon also offered to help with the process, saying then, "we stand ready to help, if requested."
However, almost 12 months later, lawmakers haven't passed any federal laws. According to CNN, some states do have laws restricting the use of facial-recognition software, and some cities ban the use entirely.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement on Tuesday that it was glad to see that Amazon had extended the ban indefinitely. The civil rights group has criticized Amazon's facial-recognition software in the past and demanded that it stop selling it to government agencies.
Call on lawmakers to ban facial recognition
In a statement, Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, called on the Biden administration and lawmakers to "further protect communities from the dangers of this technology by ending its use by law enforcement entirely, regardless which company is selling it."
Clearview AI is one of the other companies that sells facial-recognition software. The company has built a massive database of faces using pictures from social networks, and only law enforcement can access that database. Clearview has said it has hundreds of law enforcement agencies as customers.
Amazon is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders' families.