Amazon Proposes Facial Recognition Guidelines to Policymakers

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The company called for “open, honest and earnest dialogue” instead of a ban.

Amazon offered Congress and other policymakers a set of guidelines regarding facial recognition technologies—of which it is one of the world’s foremost suppliers with its Rekognition software.

In a blog post authored by Michael Plunke, vice president of global public policy for Amazon Web Services, the company acknowledged potential pitfalls and misuses of facial recognition tech but argued for “open, honest and earnest dialogue” among users, tech companies and policymakers as opposed to outright banning or condemning it.

In January, some Amazon shareholders argued for the company to stop selling facial recognition software to the government—over potential violations of civil and human rights—until the company’s board of directors could review societal impacts of the technology. In recent weeks, some cities, including San Francisco, have called for banning facial recognition outright.

However, Plunke said the company has “not received a single report of misuse by law enforcement” over its Rekognition software, which is currently in use by the FBI along with a few cities and states.

“Even with this strong track record to date, we understand why people want there to be oversight and guidelines put in place to make sure facial recognition technology cannot be used to discriminate,” the post states. “We support the calls for an appropriate national legislative framework that protects individual civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their use of facial recognition technology.”

Amazon’s guidelines, which resulted from conversations with “customers, researchers, academics, policymaker and others” over several months, include:

  • Facial recognition should always be used in accordance with the law, including laws that protect civil rights.
  • When facial recognition technology is used in law enforcement, human review is a necessary component to ensure that the use of a prediction to make a decision does not violate civil rights.
  • When facial recognition technology is used by law enforcement for identification, or in a way that could threaten civil liberties, a 99 percent confidence score threshold is recommended.
  • Law enforcement agencies should be transparent in how they use facial recognition technology.
  • There should be notice when video surveillance and facial recognition technology are used together in public or commercial settings.