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USA: Amazon CEO announces support for facial recognition regulation while own product faces privacy & discrimination-related concerns

Amazon's CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, has expressed support for some regulation of facial recognition technologies and shared that Amazon's public policy is working on crafting facial recognition regulation. 

Some civil society groups, including the ACLU and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, have raised multiple concerns about privacy and discrimination associated with Amazon's product Rekognition and see a conflict of interest with company staff working on draft regulation.

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16 October 2019

Amazon announces facial recognition support after own technology faces privacy concerns

Author: Todd Bishop, GeekWire

"Bezos: Facial recognition 'a perfect example' of the need for regulation, and Amazon is working on it", 25 September 2019

[At an Amazon press reception, Jeff Bezos said] ... “It makes a lot of sense for there to be some standards in how [facial recognition] works, and that kind of stability would be probably healthy for the whole industry. It’s a perfect example of where regulation is needed... Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulation.” ...Facial recognition is one of the biggest areas where Amazon has come under scrutiny from privacy and civil rights activists, largely because of the use of its Rekognition technology by law enforcement... Amazon’s practice of selling its Rekognition software to police rankles civil rights groups, like the ACLU, who worry the technology will negatively impact over-policed communities. The ACLU and other researchers have published studies that show facial recognition technology misidentifies women and people of color more frequently because of the training data the software is fed.

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16 October 2019

Amazon's plan for facial recognition laws faces skepticism from civil society

Author: Alfred Ng, CNET

"Amazon's plan for facial recognition laws faces skeptics," 26 Sept 2019

On [September 25, Jeff Bezos announced], "Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations, and it makes a lot of sense to regulate that... It's a perfect example of something that has really positive uses... [but] there's also potential for abuses of that kind of technology..." [C]ivil rights groups raised their concerns... expressing skepticism at Bezos' statement..."If Amazon is really interested in preventing these dangers, the first thing it should do is stop pushing surveillance tools into our communities without regard for the impact," [said] the ACLU's senior legislative counsel, Neema Singh Guliani... "Lawmakers should be skeptical of weak industry proposals that sacrifice individuals rights in the interest of profit."... Microsoft is also urging governments to enact legislation regarding the technology, warning that it could "exacerbate societal issues."... Lawmakers have already proposed several bills on facial recognition, including legislation that would ban the technology in public housing and in businesses... "We can't trust the companies that have profited off of biased facial recognition systems for years to now write their own rules," said the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Albert Fox Cahn. "Amazon's push for federal regulations is a cynical ploy to undercut the growing list of state laws that ban facial recognition like its own Rekognition system." 

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