Amazon is indefinitely extending its moratorium on sale of its face recognition software, Rekognition, to law enforcement, Reuters reported. The company said it would extend its ban on police usage of the technology “until further notice.”
The technology major’s one-year ban on the sale of its technology to law enforcement, that was set in June 2020 amidst nationwide protests against police violence, was to expire on June 10, 2021. Amazon had banned the sale to give enough time to the governments to implement stronger regulations for racial equality and justice.
Facial-recognition technology, which can be used by governments to spy on anyone, and for racial discrimination, has been widely criticized for years now. The police departments allegedly have arrested several Black men wrongfully using this technology.
Amazon’s last year’s decision to halt sales of Recognition to police departments was after wide-scale protests against police violence in the United States that started with the merciless killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU, which was a major advocate against the use of the technology for years, said it was glad with the company’s decision to extend the ban indefinitely.
In 2018, the ACLU joined with nearly 100 civil rights, religious, community-based, and labor organizations to ask Amazon to stop selling its face recognition technology to government agencies over concerns that the tool is being used for racial discrimination.
The privacy activists had also called Microsoft and Google to stop providing the technology to governments. Most recently, the ACLU asked President Biden to impose a moratorium on the federal government’s use of the technology.
Responding to Amazon’s latest decision, Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, now said, “The threats posed last year by police use of face recognition technology are identical today. ….Now, the Biden administration and legislatures across the country must further protect communities from the dangers of this technology by ending its use by law enforcement entirely, regardless which company is selling it.”
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