In an environment where lawmakers and civil liberties groups are scrutinizing facial recognition software, Amazon is facing pressure from shareholders: Investors will reportedly vote on whether the eCommerce company’s efforts to disseminate surveillance software imperils civil rights, The New York Times reported.
Sister Pat Mahoney, who is a member of a religious community in New York, said per the report, “This piece of equipment that Amazon has fostered and developed and is really propagating at this point doesn’t seem to us to be in the best interest of the common good.” She continued, “Facial recognition all over the place just makes everyone live in a police state.”
Shareholders have reportedly brought forward two facial recognition proposals for voting. In one measure, the company is asked to commission an independent report on its Amazon Rekognition facial recognition system. The other measure asks the firm to prohibit sales of that technology to agencies in government unless the company’s board determines the technology does not facilitate violations of human rights or threaten its finances.
In other recent facial recognition news, officials in San Francisco reportedly voted in mid-May to ban the use of the technology by city workers in an 8 to 1 vote. The ordinance will become final after the city’s Board of Supervisors votes again next week, per a report in Reuters citing City Supervisor Aaron Peskin. At the same time, it was reported that the rule also calls on agencies in the city to submit their surveillance technology policies for public review.
While agencies in the government have used the technology in the past, advances are bringing concerns to light. “We have a fundamental duty to safeguard the public from potential abuses,” Peskin said ahead of the vote, the news outlet reported. It was noted, however, that city agencies will still be allowed to use surveillance tools, and can make special requests to use restricted surveillance technology. The aim is to prevent the technology from impacting specific groups of people.