Amazon’s facial recognition technology has been around controversies ever since its announcement. Even after Amazon employees expressed their reservations regarding the technology’s accuracy, the company decided not to pay heed to them and sell the technology in the industry. Soon after ACLU found that “failed to facially recognize 28 members of Congress, with a higher failure rate towards people of color”, and Amazon reportedly “secured several high-profile contracts with the U.S. government and at least one major metropolitan city — including Orlando, Florida — for surveillance”, as Tech Crunch reports.
Following these events, and Amazon’s reported silence and “insufficient answers: on the series of questions asked by lawmakers, eight lawmakers, including Sen. Edward Markey and Reps. John Lewis and Judy Chu, addressed a letter Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos demanding answers on the working mechanism and the use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Recognition.
Congress isn't letting up on Amazon.
New letter from eight members: "Regrettably, despite asking you a series of questions on this subject and requesting specific information . . . your company has failed to provide sufficient answers." https://t.co/VQ2VV43JDj pic.twitter.com/IKAegJ1xVS
— Jake Snow (@snowjake) November 29, 2018
Speaking about why the technology is concerning, the lawmakers expressed “heightened concern given recent reports that Amazon is actively marketing its biometric technology to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as other reports of pilot programs lacking any hands-on training from Amazon for participating law enforcement officers.”
The lawmakers also expressed critical concerns over the very accuracy of the technology, given the fact that there is no proper information about how Amazon tests for accuracy, whether those tests are independently verified and how the company tests whether the technology could promote racism by bias. They added “However, at this time, we have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public,” ]
With Amazon given less than two weeks to respond on the matter, and given the fact that Amazon has been evading questions on its controversial technology, it’ll be interesting to see what reply this letter draws out from Amazon. The technology does sound significantly shady, and Amazon’s silence has been raising more suspicions regarding the same.