Amazon faces investor pressure over facial recognition

Author: Natasha Singer, The New York Times, Published on: 21 May 2019

Facial recognition software is coming under increasing scrutiny from civil liberties groups and lawmakers... [Amazon] [s]hareholders have introduced two proposals on facial recognition for a vote. One asks the company to prohibit sales of its facial recognition system, called Amazon Rekognition, to government agencies, unless its board concludes that the technology does not facilitate human rights violations. The other asks the company to commission an independent report examining the extent to which Rekognition may threaten civil, human and privacy rights, and the company’s finances... The proposals are nonbinding, meaning they do not require the company to take action, even if they receive a majority vote. 

... The Amazon shareholder proposals also highlight the rise of activism among investors in the country’s top tech companies. Last year, investors successfully pressured Apple to create stronger parental controls for iPhones... In the coming weeks, shareholders of FacebookTwitter and Alphabet will vote on issues related to election interference, hate speech, disinformation and creating censored services for China... In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission... [Amazon] said that it was not aware of any reported misuse of Rekognition by law enforcement customers. It also argued that the technology did not present a financial risk... “The proposals raise only conjecture and speculation about possible risks that might arise” from clients misusing the technology, lawyers for Amazon wrote in the letter. 

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