Amazon bans police use of its infamous facial recognition software for a year

After IBM decided to pull out from the facial recognition business two days back, Amazon has followed suit and announced that the firm's Rekognition software will not be used by police forces for a year until stricter regulation surrounding it can be formulated. The tech and e-commerce giant wrote in a statement on its blog:

“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.”

At its core, Amazon Rekognition uses facial recognition to match photos of people to police databases thereby helping in the identification of people. However, the software has long been a target of controversy.

Ever since its inception, Rekognition has been criticized as a surveillance system. Activists have also called out inherent bias that might be exhibited by it due to the disproportionate sampling in its AI models. This was also the primary concern that led IBM to discontinue its business of facial recognition systems.

Amazon and IBM both have taken this step considering the ongoing worldwide protests calling for an end to racism and police brutality after the death of an African-American man George Floyd in police custody. But Evan Greer hailing from the digital rights group Fight for the Future said that this is “nothing more than a public relations stunt from Amazon,” and that the firm could spend the year-long hiatus in improving the technology and lobbying Congress to formulate industry-friendly regulation for facial recognition technology.

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