Fri, May 24, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Amazon shareholders reject facial ID ban

NO TO REKOGNITION:One group had proposed banning sales of the facial recognition technology to government agencies over privacy and rights concerns

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

People asking Amazon.com not to sell face recognition and other technology to federal government agencies, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, demonstrate outside the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Seattle, Washington on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday confirmed that shareholders rejected proposals to prohibit sales of facial recognition technology to governments and study how it might threaten privacy or civil rights.

The proposals voted down at Amazon’s annual general meeting were put forth by a group of shareholders, but opposed by the board of directors.

Seattle-based Amazon developed facial recognition technology called Rekognition and sells it as part of its cloud services unit.

Several police departments have tested Rekognition and Amazon is reportedly marketing the technology to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where it could be used to profile or surveil immigrants, the proposal said.

One proposal called on Amazon’s board of directors to ban sales of facial recognition technology to government agencies unless it concluded, based on independent evidence, that it would not contribute to violations of civil or human rights.

Amazon is mindful of the need to balance the benefits of facial recognition technology with potential risks, the board said in opposition to the proposal.

“New technology should not be banned or condemned because of its potential misuse,” the board said in a statement.

“Instead, there should be open, honest and earnest dialogue among all parties involved to ensure that the technology is applied appropriately and is continuously enhanced,” it said.

Another proposal rejected by shareholders called for an independent study of Rekognition to assess the extent to which such technology could endanger privacy or civil rights, or disproportionately target people of color, immigrants or activists in the US.

Rekognition is hosted at Amazon data centers in the Internet cloud and its capabilities are sold as services to subscribers who do not download the software, keeping it in Amazon’s control.

Amazon said that in the more than two years that Rekognition launched, there have been no reports of Rekognition being misused in ways laid out in the shareholder proposals.

Facial recognition technology uses a scan of a person’s face to create an algorithm that is compared against a database.

It can be used to unlock a smartphone or vehicle, pay in retail stores, verify identities at bank machines or develop customized fashion or beauty recommendations.

However, its use in law enforcement has created the greatest outcry among rights activists because of the potential for errors and mismatches, and because the technology relies on vast databases that might have little or no oversight.

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