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AWS executive says no misuse of its face biometrics by police, talks foreign government sales



Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services CEO, would have no problem selling the company’s facial recognition software Rekognition to law enforcement and foreign governments, except to those banned from doing business with U.S. companies, he said in an interview with Frontline, PBS reports.

The statement was made last September during the filming of ‘Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,’ when filmmakers interviewed six Amazon executives and nine previous employees about the company’s business strategy, development and interest in partnering with law enforcement.

When interviewer James Jacoby said, despite certain bans, U.S.-based companies have still entered partnerships with countries accused of violating human rights, Jassy reiterated that in case of “documented cases where customers of any sort are using the technology in a way that’s against the law or that we think is impinging people’s civil liberties, then we won’t allow them to use the platform.”

Amazon has been actively criticized by civil rights groups, among others, for providing law enforcement with biometric facial recognition technology and for looking into potential partnerships with government agencies. Last April, a group of 26 researchers urged Amazon to stop supplying law enforcement with its biometric Rekognition service.

The U.S. does not currently have any regulatory framework for facial recognition technology, however facial recognition use has been banned from law enforcement activity in Sommerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts, San Francisco and Oakland. Earlier this month a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that would place a temporary moratorium on the use of biometric facial recognition by law enforcement until it is studied by a dedicated commission.

“We’ve had the facial recognition technology out for use for over two-and-a-half years now, and in those two-and-a-half years, we’ve never had any reported misuse of law enforcement using the facial recognition technology,” Jassy said. “I think a lot of societal good is already being done with facial recognition technology,” he added, noting that the tech had been used to find missing children and trafficking victims.

Jassy hopes the federal government will soon start working on a regulatory framework for facial recognition. As stated by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the company is already working on a project it intends to pitch to lawmakers.

“I think at the end of the day with any technology, whether you’re talking about facial recognition technology or anything else, the people that use the technology have to be responsible for it, and if they use it irresponsibly, they have to be held accountable,” Jassy said.

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