Amazon shareholder proposal requests civil rights review before selling facial recognition tech

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A shareholder proposal organized by corporate activist non-profit Open MIC asks that Amazon halt its sales of facial recognition technology pending clearance by a civil rights review, The Verge reports.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, which is part of Roman Catholic investors group the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment is filing the proposal, which calls for “an evaluation using independent evidence,” with the intention of a vote at a spring meeting.

Open MIC has made similar proposals, such as to block Google from creating a Chinese search engine, according to The Verge.

The proposal quotes ousted Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen, who had said: “Any company in this space that willingly hands [facial recognition] software over to a government, be it America or another nation’s, is willfully endangering people’s lives.” It also points out that Amazon itself has stated that users should not have to choose between privacy rights and the benefits of technological innovation.

The proposed review would entail consultation between Amazon’s board and “technology and civil liberties experts and human rights advocates” about the risk of rights violations, bias, and sales to repressive governments.

Amazon has fended off criticism from the ACLU, company employees, and members of U.S. Congress, and it technology is being trialed by the FBI and Orlando Police.

A group of more than 85 organizations called on Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to commit to not providing facial recognition to the U.S. government in separate letter, with particularly pointed criticism in the one to Amazon.

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