Jeff Bezos, the CEO of online retail giant Amazon, has been asked by two dozen civil rights organizations to stop selling facial recognition to the government, according to CNN
In a letter made public by the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) on Tuesday, organizations feel that this technology, called Rekognition, “is primed for abuse in the hands of governments.”
“This product poses a grave threat to communities, including people of color and immigrants, and to the trust and respect Amazon has worked to build,” the letter reads. “People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government. Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom.”
In an email correspondence obtained by the ACLU between Amazon and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, the enforcement agency said it has around 300,000 images uploaded to Rekognition.
The department’s public information officer, Deputy Jeff Talbot, told CNNMoney that his office has been using the technology for more than a year.
“During that time, [we] have been transparent and forthcoming so the local public knows what it is, and equally importantly, what it is not,” he said in an email. “The Sheriff’s Office does not use the technology for mass and/or real-time surveillance. In fact, state law and our policy prohibits it for such use.”
In a statement to CNNMoney, Amazon said:
Amazon requires that customers comply with the law and be responsible when they use [Amazon Web Services]. When we find that AWS services are being abused by a customer, we suspend that customer’s right to use our services.
The company introduced the facial recognition technology in 2016.
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.