Amazon has put a one-year pause on police departments using its facial recognition technology.
The technology, called Rekognition, was launched in 2016. The tool uses artificial intelligence to help surveil and identify crime suspects as well as human trafficking victims and exploited children. Rekognition has been used by government agencies including ICE and numerous police departments.
The technology has faced opposition in recent years, especially after a 2018 ACLU study found that it incorrectly matched photos of 28 members of Congress with arrest mugshots of other people. The false matches were more common among people of color. In 2019, an MIT study found widespread errors in Rekognition’s classification system by race.
Many opponents say the technology intensifies systemic racism in policing by disproportionally misidentifying non-white individuals.
Earlier this week, IMB announced it was getting out of the facial recognition business. “We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” wrote IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in the letter to members of Congress.
On its decision, Amazon wrote in a blog post, “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. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.”
According to Amazon, “We will continue to allow organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use Amazon Rekognition to help rescue human trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families.”
The ACLU says Amazon’s one-year suspension doesn’t go far enough. Jim Cramer weigh’s in: Is Amazon doing enough?
“We're in an era where we're trying to figure out how to make it so that we don't get in a situation where there's a crime because people have had enough with society. And so that last thing we need is tracking software right now," he said.
"I know there are people who are law and order people who might disagree with me, but I don't care. We can't have two countries anymore," Cramer added. "I don't think there should be free speech for racists."
Amazon shares have risen about 40% year to date.