Amazon extends ban on police using its controversial facial-recognition software indefinitely

Amazon extends ban on police using its controversial facial-recognition software indefinitely
Several dozen protesters hold up Jeff Bezos masks as they gather downtown to denounce Amazon for providing their facial recognition software, ""Rekognition,"" to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and, thereby, supporting the Trump AdminGENNA MARTIN/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
  • Amazon says it will ban sales of its facial-recognition tech to police indefinitely.
  • The firm said in June 2020 it would stop selling the tool for one year.
  • The software has been slammed for disproportionately targeting Black people and other people of color.

Amazon on Tuesday announced it's extending a moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology until further notice, according to Reuters.

The online retail giant said in June 2020 it was suspending sales of its facial recognition software, Rekognition, to law enforcement for one year. IBM and Microsoft also halted the sales of their facial recognition tools around the same time.

This followed widespread protests against police brutality in the US after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

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Amazon workers criticized the company for supporting the George Floyd protesters while continuing to flog its controversial technology to law enforcement.

Facial recognition is an increasingly popular tool that police use to track down criminals, terrorists, or illegal immigrants. But numerous studies indicate that Amazon's Rekognition is less adept at recognizing darker skin tones.


AI experts and civil rights leaders have said this disproportionately targets Black people and other people of color. The New York Times reported in December that three wrongful arrests of Black men had taken place in the US due to flawed facial recognition.

Amazon said in June it hoped a one year pause would allow Congress to create legislation that regulated the ethical use of facial recognition tools. Congress hasn't yet banned the technology.

Now, the retailer wants to extend the moratorium indefinitely.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

"This is a huge win for privacy and is the direct result of years of work by activists and advocates who have shed light on the dangerous use of this flawed technology," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement on Twitter.


"We can't let dystopian technologies supercharge police abuse and cause further harm to Black and Brown communities," it said, adding that other companies must follow suit.

Despite Amazon's pause on sales of Rekognition, US police make widespread use of other surveillance technology sold by the retail giant, namely its doorbell camera arm Ring.

Reporting by Motherboard from 2019 onwards has uncovered extensive partnerships between US police departments and Ring to enable access home security footage, and one academic recently described Ring as a huge "civilian surveillance network."