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Posted under: Politics News

ACLU Wants Amazon To Stop 'Powering' Government Surveillance That Can Be Used Against Black Activists And Undocumented Immigrants

The organization released emails between Amazon employees and local law enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union has released emails between Amazon employees, governments, and local law enforcement. The organization, through an open letter signed by 35 other organizations nationwide, has "demanded" Amazon to stop providing its facial surveillance technology, Rekognition, to those affiliates.

The ACLU also launched a petition.

"The rights of immigrants, communities of color, protesters, and others will be put at risk if Amazon provides this powerful surveillance system to government agencies," said Shankar Narayan, technology and liberty director of ACLU Washington.

Amazon Rekognition relies, in part, on artificial intelligence to analyze images and videos, similar to the system used in iPhone's face unlock.

The ACLU went on to specify they want Amazon to end the sale of Rekognition to local law enforcement. They released emails in May which showed how Amazon had been pushing its surveillance technology to officers.

Though facial recognition has been used by law enforcement prior to Amazon, advocates against its use with law enforcement argue it has its flaws.

For example, in 2018, Rekognition incorrectly matched lawmakers with people who had been charged with a crime. The lawmakers were placed with mugshots which led to a wider call on how Rekognition worked.

“We already know facial recognition algorithms discriminate against black faces and are being used to violate the human rights of immigrants. We know putting this technology into the hands of already brutal and unaccountable law enforcement agencies places both democracy and dissidence at great risk,” said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice. "Amazon should never be in the business of aiding and abetting racial discrimination and xenophobia but that’s exactly what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is doing when he sells these loosely regulated facial recognition tools to local police departments.

Democratic party lawmakers signed a letter to Amazon seeking answers on the potential pitfalls to such technology uses.

"Facial recognition technology may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials working to protect the American public and keep us safe," they wrote. "However, at this time, we have serious concerns this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle [the] willingness [of] Americans to exercise their First Amendment rights in public."

Amazon has said, in posted statements, they welcome oversight on how the technology is to be used going forward.

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