Urge Congress to Ban Facial-Recognition Technology
Amazon is writing a law to govern the use of facial-recognition technology — the same technology it sells to police, ICE and other law-enforcement agencies.1
Amazon’s plan isn’t surprising: By drafting the policy, it can push for weak rules that allow it to continue to profit off of the rapidly expanding use of facial recognition — technology that could be used in products like their Amazon Ring doorbell, which allows folks to see, talk to and record people who come to their doorsteps.
Meanwhile, facial-recognition technology is popping up everywhere and putting us under constant surveillance that threatens our civil rights. Police and government agencies are already using facial-recognition technology in ways that endanger people’s lives:
- ICE has used drivers-license databases to try to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.2
- The tech has been installed outside public-housing units to monitor tenants in Detroit.3
- Airports across the United States have or will have facial recognition in place to identify people on both foreign and domestic flights.4
- Even some schools are looking into using this invasive tech on children.5
No matter where you go, this technology is watching all of us without our permission or even when there’s no suspicion of wrongdoing.
Worse still, the technology is dangerously inaccurate and has serious racial-justice implications. Last summer, the ACLU tested Rekognition, Amazon’s facial-recognition software, and found that it incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress with mugshots of people who have committed a crime. The errors disproportionately impacted members of color, including civil-rights hero Rep. John Lewis.6
Congress is already working on legislation to address facial-recognition technology — it will be introduced soon. But if people don’t speak up, companies like Amazon will be the ones writing the laws.
This is a critical moment: We must send a unified message to Congress to demand a ban on governmental use of facial-recognition technology before Amazon pushes its weak, industry-friendly regulations.
1. “Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Is Writing Its Own Facial Recognition Laws to Pitch to Lawmakers,” Vox, Sept. 25, 2019: https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/9/25/20884427/jeff-bezos-amazon-facial-recognition-draft-legislation-regulation-rekognition
2. “Don’t Regulate Facial Recognition. Ban It,” BuzzFeed, July 18, 2019: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/evangreer/dont-regulate-facial-recognition-ban-it
3. “Facial Recognition in Public Housing Prompts Backlash,” The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2019: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/24/us/politics/facial-recognition-technology-housing.html.
4. “Ban Facial Recognition: Interactive Map,” Fight for the Future: https://www.banfacialrecognition.com/map/.
5. “Facial Recognition Technology in U.S. Schools Threatens Rights,” Human Rights Watch, June 21, 2019: https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/21/facial-recognition-technology-us-schools-threatens-rights.
6. “Amazon’s Face Recognition Falsely Matched 28 Members of Congress With Mugshots,” ACLU, July 26, 2018: https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28.