Amazon stands firm on sale of facial-recognition technology to FBI despite moratorium

Amazon recently claimed that the use of its Rekognition software by the FBI does not violate its moratorium on sales of facial-recognition technology to US law enforcement agencies. The moratorium was initially imposed in June 2020, along with Microsoft and IBM, in response to public backlash over the killing of George Floyd. While the moratorium was thought to apply to all police use of the technology, Amazon stated that certain non-law enforcement organizations, such as Thorn and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, would still be allowed to use Rekognition. The company later extended the moratorium indefinitely in May 2021. However, an inventory published by the US Department of Justice in January 2024 revealed that the FBI is using Amazon Rekognition under the project name “Tyr”. The inventory described Rekognition as offering computer vision capabilities to extract information from legally obtained images and videos. It also stated that the software would be customized to review and identify items such as nudity, weapons, explosives, and other identifying information. The specifics of the project, including the source of training data and the AI techniques to be used, have not yet been finalized. Amazon has clarified that its moratorium only applies to the use of Rekognition’s face comparison feature by police in criminal investigations and does not restrict access to other features of the software. The company believes that facial-recognition technology should be used responsibly and lawfully and is willing to assist in the development of appropriate regulations.

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