Amazon will sell facial recognition tech to police despite employee protests

In a recent company-wide QnA session, Andy Jassy insisted that Rekognition offered “great value.”

The activities of tech companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are being increasingly scrutinised and criticised by their own employees.

As the world’s reliance on cloud services increases, it’s inevitable that services like law enforcement and the military will turn to the cloud as a tool for increasing their efficiency and effectiveness. At the same time, employees and rights groups are unhappy at the idea of increasing the power available to law enforcement and other government agencies.

This is clearly a lucrative business opportunity, but employees are increasingly uncomfortable with developing software and technology that will increase the lethality of the military and the surveillance powers of the state.

A man walks past a poster simulating facial recognition software at the Security China 2018 exhibition on public safety and security in Beijing.

A man walks past a poster simulating facial recognition software at the Security China 2018 exhibition on public safety and security in Beijing.

Civil rights groups have also criticised such moves by big tech. One such program is Amazon’s Rekognition, a facial recognition service that Amazon is actively pitching to US law enforcement agencies, including ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), which was the agency responsible for separating immigrant children from their families.

While Google and Microsoft have backed out from certain military and law enforcement projects because of employee protests, Amazon does not appear to have any intention of doing so.

Buzzfeed reports that in a recent company-wide QnA session, Andy Jassy (CEO of Amazon Web Services) and Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), insisted that services like Rekognition are “great value.” They pointed out that the service helped stop human trafficking and helped reunite kids with their families. As far as they’re concerned, Amazon will continue to push for expanded use of Rekognition. They claim that their terms of service prevent the unconstitutional use of such services.

What Jassy and Bezos both failed to address was the issues of surveillance and profiling that the use of such services brings up.

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