Amazon wants to take the lead on regulating facial recognition tech
In unveiling its new hardware devices in Seattle on Wednesday, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos made a surprise appearance and told reporters the company is working on facial recognition legislation that it plans to propose to lawmakers.
“Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations, and it makes a lot of sense to regulate that,” Mr. Bezos said. “It’s a perfect example of something that has really positive uses, so you don’t want to put the brakes on it. But at the same time, there’s also potential for abuses of that kind of technology, so you do want regulations.”
Amazon’s legislative ideas haven’t been revealed. In February, Amazon in a blog entry offered some suggestions including ensuring facial recognition tools comply with laws, maintaining human reviews to double-check findings and requiring signage where the technology is used.
Amazon’s Rekognition software, which debuted in 2017, matches photos and videos of faces with databases of other face photos in real-time.
For retailers, the potential positives include instant recognition of consumers as they walk into stores to provide highly relevant messaging as well as support of secure mobile payments. Law enforcement, airport security and retail loss prevention can use the technology to ferret out scofflaws.
Civil rights groups, lawmakers and even Amazon employees, however, are concerned about potential discrimination and civil rights violations if Rekognition is used by law enforcement agencies. Tests of Rekognition and similar technologies that showed biases have heightened concerns.
“If Amazon is really interested in preventing these dangers, the first thing it should do is stop pushing surveillance tools into our communities without regard for the impact,” Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, said in a statement. “Lawmakers should be skeptical of weak industry proposals that sacrifice individual’s rights in the interest of profit.”
A recent survey from Pew Research Center found nearly six in 10 respondents who have heard of facial recognition either do not have much trust (35 percent) or have no trust at all (23 percent) that technology companies will use facial recognition in a responsible manner.
- Jeff Bezos says Amazon is writing its own facial recognition laws to pitch to lawmakers – Recode
- Amazon’s plan for facial recognition laws faces skeptics – CNET
- Amazon CEO says company working on facial recognition regulations – Reuters
- Jeff Bezos: How About Just Letting Amazon Draft Any Possible Facial Recognition Laws? – Gizmodo
- Some Thoughts on Facial Recognition Legislation – Amazon.com
- More Than Half of U.S. Adults Trust Law Enforcement to Use Facial Recognition Responsibly – Pew Center
- World Catching Up With China on Surveillance Tech – The Wall Street Journal
- Do the benefits of using facial recognition in retail outweigh the risks? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it a smart move for Amazon to attempt to drive regulation of facial recognition technology? Will resistance to facial recognition ebb as supposed benefits become apparent?