Amazon shareholders rejected proposals to limit sales of and audit its facial recognition software to prevent violations of peoples’ rights
Amazon shareholders rejected two non-binding proposals governing its facial recognition software, Rekognition: one would have limited sales of Rekognition to governments, unless a board determined that such sales would not violate peoples’ rights, and the other was to study the extent to which Rekognition infringed peoples’ privacy and other rights. These two proposals were presented to shareholders despite Amazon’s effort to stop the votes, which were thwarted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The two proposals stemmed from research exposing biases in Amazon’s software, protests from artificial intelligence researchers and Amazon employees, and the work of advocacy groups concerned about Rekognition’s impacts on peoples’ civil rights. The two proposals had not been expected to pass, given Amazon’s efforts to thwart them, that CEO and founder Jeff Bezos had a 16% voting share, and Amazon’s board voted against them. In response to these votes, some US lawmakers have indicated that there is a need for greater safeguards and oversight of facial recognition technologies, particularly in light of the inability of companies like Amazon to adequately self-regulate.
Author: Jeffrey Dastin