It’s a separate and connected conversation.”. Amazon said other organizations, including those using facial recognition to combat human trafficking, will be able to keep using the software. Once passed into law, they will become an important reference point for other bills written to ban face recognition in other applications and contexts. Amazon investors voted on Wednesday to continue selling the company’s controversial facial recognition technology to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world.The vote, which took place Tuesday during Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting, comes amid widespread backlash against facial recognition technology and the potential for it to inappropriately target women … But the move backfired after people discovered that the images were scraped from Flickr, bringing up issues of consent and privacy. Rather than acknowledge the results, however, Amazon published two blog posts claiming that Raji and Buolamwini’s work was misleading. “I think that IBM’s decision to send that letter, at the time that same legislative body is considering a police reform bill, really shifted the landscape,” says Mutale Nkonde, an AI policy advisor and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future. “It tried to spin up a narrative that they had gotten it wrong—that anyone who understood the tech clearly would know this wasn’t a problem.”. That’s a remarkable admission.”. Amazon, Microsoft and IBM have all announced they are stopping selling facial recognition technology to police forces. But while activists and researchers see Amazon’s concession as a major victory, they also recognize that the war isn’t over. And then the initial response was so directly confrontational and aggressively defensive.”, “Amazon tried to discredit their research; it tried to undermine them as Black women who led this research,” says Meredith Whittaker, cofounder and director of the AI Now Institute, which studies the social impacts of AI. The second situation is when it does work—where you have the perfect facial recognition system, but it’s easily weaponized against communities to harass them. “Even though they weren’t a big player in facial recognition, the move really put Amazon in political danger.” It established a clear link between the technology and the ongoing national conversation, in a way that was difficult for regulators to ignore. emails that showed Microsoft tried to sell facial recognition software to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in 2017 and 2018. The move comes after IBM pulled out of selling general purpose facial recognition … “It really should not have taken the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many other Black people—and hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets across the country—for these companies to realize that the demands from Black- and brown-led organizations and scholars, from the ACLU, and from many other groups were morally correct,” Crockford says. The move followed IBM’s decision to discontinue its general-purpose face recognition system. In February of 2018, MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru, then a Microsoft researcher, published a groundbreaking study called Gender Shades on the gender and racial biases embedded in commercial face recognition systems. The next day, Microsoft announced that it would stop selling its system to police departments until federal law regulates the technology. What are the ingredients of Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine? 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A later study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by the crusading computer scientist Joy Buolamwini, found that Rekognition was wrong about the gender of dark-skinned women 31pc of the time, compared to an error rate of zero for white men. Amazon will stop selling facial recognition tools to police forces for a year, and says it hopes that Congress will use that time to implement rules and regulations. We rely on advertising to help fund our award-winning journalism. According to the ACLU, Rekognition is a dangerous step towards a … As Black Lives Matter protests swept across the United States, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft took a stand: They halted sales of facial recognition technology to American police departments, and … Amazon has suspended all police use of its controversial face recognition system for one year after accusations that it was aiding racist violence. Microsoft and Amazon Ring should stop working with police, say the ACLU and EFF. Amazon sells its … “It is absolutely an admission on the company’s part, at least implicitly, that what racial justice advocates have been telling them for two years is correct: face surveillance technology endangers Black and brown people in the United States. Activists had slammed the company for supporting Black Lives Matter while selling surveillance technology to US cops. Depends on where you’re from. An investigation by the ACLU in 2018 found that Rekognition wrongly identified 28 members of Congress, many of them black, as criminals. Microsoft and Amazon halted facial recognition sales to police this month following nationwide protests that have demanded an end to law enforcement tactics … Amazon may be using facial recognition software to verify the identity of online sellers, BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday. “The cynical part of me says Amazon is going to wait until the protests die down—until the national conversation shifts to something else—to revert to its prior position,” says the ACLU’s Crockford. The move really put Amazon in political danger. As part of an increased focus on the role that tech companies were playing in enabling the US government’s tracking and deportation of immigrants, it called on Amazon to “stand up for civil rights and civil liberties.” “As advertised,” it said, “Rekognition is a powerful surveillance system readily available to violate rights and target communities of color.”. Microsoft has become the third tech giant to declare a moratorium on selling its facial recognition software to police, as companies weigh in on the … In response, House and Senate Democrats introduced a police reform bill that includes a proposal to limit face recognition in a law enforcement context, marking the largest federal effort ever to regulate the technology. IBM “just realized that the ‘benefits’ were in no way proportional to the harm,” says Raji. “The work of Gender Shades was to expose the first situation,” she says. “This surveillance technology’s threat to our civil rights and civil liberties will not disappear in a year. It triggered another series of internal discussions about how to ethically train face recognition. And the spotlight that Floyd’s death has shined on racist policing practices has accelerated its widespread support. Rekognition itself has been repeatedly found to be biased against black faces, with one study finding higher error rates than rival services from IBM and Microsoft. In fact, as it was publicly dismissing the study, Amazon was starting to invest in researching fixes behind the scenes. Amazon is selling facial recognition and surveillance services to US police. His company's statement on Wednesday did not mention its video doorbell division, Ring, which reportedly has partnerships with more than 500 US police forces to access its video footage but which has been accused of becoming a tool of suburban racism. Along with the letter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington delivered over 150,000 petition signatures as well as another letter from the company’s own shareholders expressing similar demands. Nicole Ozer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been campaigning against police use of Rekognition, said: "It took two years for Amazon to get to this point, but we’re glad the company is finally recognizing the dangers face recognition poses to Black and Brown communities and civil rights more broadly. Amazon must fully commit to a blanket moratorium on law enforcement use of face recognition until the dangers can be fully addressed, and it must press Congress and legislatures across the country to do the same.”, Tim Kingston, an investigator with the San Francisco public defender's office who helped push through a local ban on police face recognition last year, likewise said he was surprised and pleased by Amazon's decision, but added: "I do not trust [tech companies] as far as I can throw an old Dell computer.". Amazon employees also spoke out against the company’s sale of facial recognition to law enforcement — along with its sale of AWS to Palantir, which … Amazon's technology isn't that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies. It pushed Rekognition as a tool for monitoring “people of interest” and doubled down on providing other surveillance technologies to governments. Rekognition was classifying the gender of dark-skinned women 31.4 percentage points less accurately than that of light-skinned men. “And in this particular moment, it was the right time for them to go public about it.”. The findings immediately debunked the accuracy claims that the companies had been using to sell their products and sparked a debate about face recognition in general. In January of 2019, it released a data set called Diversity in Faces, containing over 1 million annotated face images, in an effort to make such systems better. But then everything changed. Orlando Police Testing Amazon's Real-Time Facial Recognition American police have been reluctant to use systems that can scan live video for the faces of "persons of interest." Critics See Surveillance Risk. “We will be watching closely to make sure that these companies aren’t effectively getting good press for these recent announcements while simultaneously working behind the scenes to thwart our efforts in legislatures.”, This is why activists and researchers also believe regulation will play a critical role moving forward. Amazon claimed the study was misleading. “The lesson is that we need more pressure, and that we need regulations that ensure we’re not just looking at a one-year ban.”. Amazon to ban police use of facial recognition software for a year This article is more than 6 months old Company has stated its support for Black Lives Matter movement, but … The ACLU used an 80% confidence threshold, but Amazon said in its statement, “When using facial recognition for law enforcement activities, we … Amazon's shareholders previously shot down a ban on police use of Rekognition at this year's annual meeting, with its board claiming that there had been no reports of the system being used "in the harmful manner posited in the proposal". The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has revealed that Amazon has been selling its facial recognition software, called Rekognition, to a number of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups are calling on Amazon chief Jeff Bezos to stop offering Rekognition facial detection system to government customers after … The company's move follows IBM's announcement on Tuesday that it was pulling out of the face recognition business entirely for fear that it could lead to "mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms". Better late than never.”, - Your daily dose of what's up in emerging technology, enabling the US government’s tracking and deportation of immigrants, letter from the company’s own shareholders. (Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.) In June of 2018, in the midst of all the other letters demanding that the company stop police use of Rekognition, Raji and Buolamwini expanded the Gender Shades audit to encompass its performance. The news outlet reported that an individual based in Vietnam who sells goods through the retail giant was prompted to record a five-second video of his face in order to sign up for a seller profile. “But here we are. This is what happened with IBM. On May 25, 2020, Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, sparking a historic movement in the US to fight institutional racism and end police brutality. For another, the one-year expiration is also a red flag. In July, the ACLU of Northern California also conducted its own study, finding that the system falsely matched photos of 28 members of the US Congress with mugshots. In doing so, it created an opening to expose the second. The company said: "We’re implementing a one-year moratorium on police use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology. The cynical part of me says Amazon is going to wait until the protests die down...to revert to its prior position. There’s “really a larger legislative movement” at both the federal and local levels, she says. But Nkonde is optimistic: she sees this first set of recommendations as a seed for additional regulation to come. He attributed it partly to tech workers having "'oh my God' moments" as the cultural reckoning unleashed by the killing of George Floyd rippled out through Silicon Valley and Amazon's native Seattle. Dissident employees had charged the online shopping giant with hypocrisy for vocally supporting the Black Lives Matter movement while selling its Rekognition service to US police forces. The false matches were disproportionately people of color. Amazon investors are expected to vote on a measure calling for the company to halt sales of its facial recognition technology to police during its investors day on May 22. "We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.". It also spent millions lobbying Congress to avoid regulation. “It just speaks to the power of this current moment.”, “A year is a start,” says Kade Crockford, the director of the technology liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. Amazon’s surprise reversal on selling facial recognition software to police this week helped the company earn some goodwill at a time when law enforcement technology is under a microscope. Rekognition runs on Amazon servers and is delivered to customers as an internet service, making it, in theory, relatively simple for Amazon to suspend access for police … The proposed bill would limit how much federal law enforcement officials could use facial recognition technology, including a ban on using the software with police body-worn cameras. It hired a fairness lead, invested in an NSF research grant to mitigate the issues, and released a new version of Rekognition a few months later, responding directly to the study’s concerns, Raji says. On Monday Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, said he was "happy to lose" racist customers, declaring his support for the Black Lives Matter campaign. Microsoft followed suit on … “The lesson here isn’t that companies should self-govern,” says Whittaker. At the same time, it beat back shareholder efforts to suspend sales of the technology and conduct an independent human rights assessment. In the immediate term, Amazon’s moratorium will have a greater impact than IBM or Microsoft on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement. After Gender Shades was published, IBM was one of the first companies that reached out to the researchers to figure out how to fix its bias problems. Despite the mounting pressure, Amazon continued with business as usual. A few days later, Amazon’s employees echoed the concerns in an internal memo. AI researchers from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and a number of top universities have called on Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. In response, nearly 80 AI researchers, including Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio, defended the work and yet again called for the company to stop selling face recognition to the police. Amazon … As the debate raged, it soon became apparent that the problem was also deeper than skewed training data or imperfect algorithms. But the company announced on Wednesday that it would pause those deals while it waits for the US Congress to regulate face recognition technology, though it gave no specific reason. When IBM announced that it would discontinue its face recognition system, it also sent a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus, urging “a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.”. Artificial intelligence / Face recognition The two-year fight to stop Amazon from selling face recognition to the police This week’s moves from Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM mark a … Do your neighbors want to get vaccinated? “It’s incredible that Amazon’s actually responding within this current conversation around racism,” said Deborah Raji, an AI accountability researcher who coauthored a foundational study on the racial biases and inaccuracies built into the company’s technology. "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. Amazon Amazon sought to sell its tools to ICE in 2018. Amazon Pushes Facial Recognition to Police. “We had done so much due diligence with respect to our results. Big tech is suffering from an identity crisis. For one thing, Amazon’s 102-word announcement was vague on details about whether its moratorium would encompass law enforcement agencies beyond the police, such as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security. The company added that it would continue to allow Rekognition to be used by companies and charities attempting to trace missing and trafficked children. Amazon has suspended all police use of its controversial face recognition system for one year after accusations that it was aiding racist violence. And on Thursday, Microsoft announced that it would not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States, “until we have a national law in place.” Amazon disputed those results, citing internal research which it claimed had found "no significant difference in accuracy" across various ethnicities. “One way is by not working: by virtue of having higher error rates for people of color, it puts them at greater risk. Amazon tried to discredit their research; it tried to undermine them as Black women who led this research. “There are two ways that this technology can hurt people,” says Raji who worked with Buolamwini and Gebru on Gender Shades. It did not encompass Amazon’s Rekognition. “It was such an emotional experience at the time,” Raji recalls. The company’s subsidiary Ring, for example, acquired only a few months earlier, rapidly struck up partnerships with more than 1,300 law enforcement agencies to use footage from its home security cameras in criminal investigations. Amazon followed suit on Wednesday, saying it would impose a one-year moratorium on selling its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, to police. Using a freedom of information requests, the ACLU obtained correspondence between the respective departments and Amazon. Even if the systems reached 100% accuracy, they could still be deployed in dangerous ways, many researchers and activists warned. 1. While Amazon made the smallest concession of the three companies, it is also the largest provider of the technology to law enforcement. The decision is the culmination of two years of research and external pressure to demonstrate Rekognition’s technical flaws and its potential for abuse. Critics say the stipulations on face recognition in the current police reform bill, which only bans its real-time use in body cameras, aren’t nearly broad enough to hold the tech giants fully accountable. Amazon shareholders support selling face recognition tech to police Seattle-based Amazon developed facial-recognition technology called Rekognition and sells it … The results, published half a year later in a peer-reviewed paper, once again found huge technical inaccuracies. In the summer of 2018, nearly 70 civil rights and research organizations wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon stop providing face recognition technology to governments. Documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California have shed new light on Rekognition, Amazon’s little-known facial recognition project. Amazon on Wednesday announced it was imposing a one-year suspension on the sale of its facial recognition software to law enforcement. But on Wednesday, June 10, Amazon shocked civil rights activists and researchers when it announced that it would place a one-year moratorium on police use of Rekognition. (Critics point out that its system didn’t have much of a foothold in the market anyway.) But while IBM was responsive to external feedback, Amazon had the opposite reaction. “It led them down the rabbit hole of discovering the multitude of issues that exist with this technology,” Raji says. Nevertheless, it was the first study of its kind, and the results were shocking: the worst system, IBM’s, was 34.4 percentage points worse at classifying gender for dark-skinned women than light-skinned men. So ultimately, it was no surprise when the company finally pulled the plug. At the time, the study included the systems sold by Microsoft, IBM, and Megvii, one of China’s largest face recognition providers. 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