Congress still wants answers from Amazon about its facial recognition tech


Eight Democratic members of Congress wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday expressing concern and requesting more information about the company’s facial recognition software, Rekognition, and the decision to make it available to law enforcement agencies. 

“Facial recognition technology may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials working to protect the American public and keep us safe,” the members of Congress wrote. “However, at this time, we have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public.”

The letter was written by US Reps. Jimmy Gomez, John Lewis, Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Judy Chu and Sen. Edward Markey. It follows two other letters written by members of Congress in July demanding answers and an “immediate” meeting with Bezos after a test of Rekognition falsely matched them with mugshots of criminals.

In Thursday’s letter, the members of Congress expressed concern that Amazon is “actively marketing this product to law enforcement entities, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” They cite reports that law enforcement officials are starting to use cameras to collect footage of bystanders and transfer the data to Amazon servers for facial recognition analysis. 

The politicians also say Amazon has “failed to provide sufficient answers” to the questions raised in the letters sent in July. They renewed their request for information and demanded answers to questions such as how Amazon tests for facial recognition accuracy, whether the results have been independently verified and how the company tests for bias in the facial recognition results. 

The members of Congress ask for answers by Dec. 13.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Here’s the full letter: 

Bicameral Amazon Recognition by jonathan_skillings on Scribd

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