Amazon is implementing a one-year moratorium on the use of Rekognition, its facial recognition technology, by police departments.
The company announced the move in a blog post, writing that it will continue to allow use of recognition by "organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics," but not by police departments.
"We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge," Amazon wrote in the blog post. "We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested."
Amazon introduced Rekognition in 2016, and pitched it to police departments and other law enforcement agencies to help in surveiling crime suspects. Rekognition is also used by organizations working to identify human trafficking victims and exploited children.
The use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement has drawn scrutiny and condemnation from civil liberties groups, who argue that it could intensify racial disparities in policing and invade privacy more generally.
A group of Amazon shareholders brought forth a proposal last year to curb sales of Rekognition until its risks are better understood, citing academic studies in which widespread errors and discrepancies were found along racial lines in Rekognition's technology. That proposal failed to pass a vote.
In 2018 an ACLU study of Rekognition found it incorrectly matched photos of 28 members of Congress with arrest mugshots of other people. The false matches occurred disproportionately among people of color.
Amazon shares have risen about 40% year to date.