U.S. Congress member welcomes AWS’s facial recognition moratorium, demands further explanations

amazon biometric facial recognition

U.S. Member of Congress Jimmy Gomez has written a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos applauding the decision to implement a one-year ban on the use of its biometric facial recognition technology by law enforcement.

However, Gomez is looking for specific details on the moratorium and asking for clarifications on outstanding requests the company has not addressed since they were submitted two years ago. These included a number of civil rights issues that had been associated with Rekognition, which Gomez believes “have largely gone ignored or woefully unaddressed.”

In addition, Gomez is concerned that the recently announced moratorium is ambiguous as it does not mention if the technology will still be sold to law enforcement during the one-year time frame, if facial recognition development will stop, or if the moratorium includes all law enforcement agencies at both local and federal jurisdictions such as DHS and ICE. Other concerns are whether the company will have their technology tested by NIST and what will happen once the moratorium expires.

A list of outstanding requests that Amazon has not responded to include bias assessments for race, gender, skin pigmentation, and age, arguments for selling Rekognition to law enforcement with an option to use the 80 percent confidence threshold when 95 percent is recommended, whether the technology is included with police body cameras and if the original training dataset was disproportionately made up of white faces.

It was reported in May that Amazon initiated a campaign to defeat proposed Portland, Oregon legislation that would ban all use of biometric facial recognition systems.

A recent Comparitech report on biometric bias found that demographic differences in Amazon Rekognition’s performance have not changed much.

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