Amazon has placed a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software Rekogniton. (The company did not exclude its use by other law enforcement agencies).
In a short blog without a named author, the company said: “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”.
Other facial recognition providers including Microsoft have also been advocating clearer guidelines around its use.
Police Ban from Rekognition
Amazon’s Rekognition came under fresh fire this month after an independent study exposed its accuracy flaws.
Coparitech.com used the software to compare UK and US politicians with mugshots from the website jailbase.com. Over 100 politicians were incorrectly matched with the tool at its default setting.
A coalition of racial justice groups has also been putting pressure on Amazon this month to stop supplying facial recognition technology to US police and immigration officials with an online petition.
Research at MIT released in both 2018 and 2019 published high error rates for people of colour in facial recognition technology produced by IBM, Microsoft and Amazon.
Amazon’s move this week followed IBM’s decision to drop facial recognition software from its portfolio; the company cited unease at mass surveillance and racial profiling. Critics suggested its market share was negligible anyway.
IBM’s new CEO announced in a letter to Congress sent on June 8: “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.
“Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues. By that time, these challenges will be much more difficult to bottle back up”.