Amazon Backs Proposed Facial Recognition Tech Legislation

Amazon Supports Facial Recognition Legislation

Amazon supports a national legislative framework for the use of facial recognition that “protects civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their use” of the technology.

Michael Punke, the vice president of global public policy at Amazon’s AWS division, wrote a blog post on Thursday (Feb. 7) about the topic, laying out not only the company’s views, but also guidelines for lawmakers who could be drafting future legislation.

Amazon, who created the software Rekognition, defended its use as a viable tool for law enforcement, and said that outside groups who have criticized the software were using it incorrectly.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a study that found Rekognition didn’t reliably identify women and darker-skinned faces in certain situations. The researchers said the software identified women as men 19 percent of the time and darker-skinned women as men 31 percent of the time, according to reports.

Amazon said Rekognition wasn’t used correctly in those scenarios, and that it was confident the technology was viable.

Punke laid out six guidelines for possible future legislation. One was that facial recognition should follow all laws, and that law enforcement remain transparent with the public about its use. They should also be forthcoming about privacy safeguards and make sure to protect civil rights.

Also, law enforcement shouldn’t rely on the software alone – rather, a human being should always perform a final review. A confidence threshold of 99 percent should be in place, and law enforcement should let people know when they’re being surveilled in a public space.

Punke said that just because the tech is new doesn’t mean it should be banned, and encouraged an open dialogue.

AWS dedicates significant resources to ensuring our technology is highly accurate and reduces bias, including using training data sets that reflect gender, race, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity,” he said. “We will continue to work with partners across industry, government, academia and community groups on this topic, because we strongly believe that facial recognition is an important, even critical, tool for business, government and law enforcement use.”