Regulation

Congress Writes Second Letter To Amazon About Rekognition

Congress Asks Amazon About Rekognition

Eight members of Congress wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday, reiterating its concerns about the tech giant’s facial recognition software, called Rekognition.

The letter asked four questions and requested additional information about the product, and about Amazon’s decision to make it available for law enforcement.

Congress previously wrote a letter about the software in July, and said the company “failed to provide sufficient answers.” In May, Democratic Representatives Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri also demanded answers from Amazon about the program.

The July letter was written after the American Civil Liberties Union tested the software by scanning the faces of 535 members of Congress against 25,000 publicly available mugshots. The results were not accurate, and the test generated 28 false matches.

“An identification — whether accurate or not — could cost people their freedom or even their lives,” Congress said at the time. “Congress must take these threats seriously, hit the brakes and enact a moratorium on law enforcement’s use of face recognition.”

Amazon blamed the results on poor calibration, according to a report by The Verge.

The latest questions from Congress asked for the results of “any internal accuracy or bias assessments that Amazon has performed on Rekognition.” They want the information “broken down and in combination for race, gender, ethnicity and age.” They also want to know if the results of the tests have been independently verified.

In another question, Congress asked if Amazon builds protections into the software to protect the privacy rights of innocent people, and whether the software has a way to automatically delete unused biometric data.

The final two questions asked if Amazon conducts audits of the software to make sure it’s not being abused for “secretive government surveillance,” and whether it’s currently being used with law enforcement body camera tech or a public-facing camera network.

The letter asked for a response by Dec. 13 of this year.

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