First the ACLU Asked Amazon to Stop Selling Facial Recognition Tech to Police. Now Investors Have Doubts Too
In May, the American Civil Liberties Union asked Amazon to stop selling facial recognition software to police. Now some investors are echoing that call.
The Associated Press reports that 19 investment management companies with a stake in Amazon (AMZN)—together they manage $10 billion in common voting stock and represent 5-10% of all Amazon shareholders—expressed concerns about Rekognition, an image recognition software offered through Amazon Web Services. Some police and law enforcement agencies are using the software to recognize faces, and investors are getting concerned that could lead to legal action.
The investment managers are asking Amazon to review the marketing, sales, and policies behind Rekognition to ensure the company is meeting its fiduciary duty to stakeholders and to protect the public.
Amazon argues that the tool can be a force for good in the right hands. Law enforcement agencies have used it to find abducted people and missing children. But privacy rights activists have grown increasingly concerned since an update to the software last fall made it simple to identify faces in videos and follow people’s movements. They’re concerned that the technology will have disproportionate consequences for minorities, immigrants, and political protesters.
Amazon isn’t the only tech company working with law enforcement agencies to the chagrin of stakeholders. Some Google employees have quit over the company’s provision of technology that helps the Pentagon analyze drone footage, and many online platforms have come in for criticism over their provision of customer data to government agencies.