Open Letter to Amazon against Police and Government use of Rekognition

Researchers in Support of Amazon Employees: Amazon should not sell Face Rekognition Technologies to Police, Government or Intermediaries.

An Open Letter to:

Jeffrey Bezos, Founder and CEO of Inc.
Hassan Sawaf, Director of Artificial Intelligence, Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Dr. Matt Wood, General Manager of Artificial Intelligence, Amazon Web Services (AWS)

As academics who study, teach about, and develop information technologies, we write in solidarity with Amazon workers and shareholders, as well as a coalition of over 70 civil and human rights groups, who are urging Amazon to cease sale of its Rekognition facial recognition technology to police departments and government agencies. We also support the workers’ demand to cease providing AWS cloud services to intermediary companies such as Palantir that develop AI technologies for police departments and militaries, and their refusal to provide services to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) service, and refusal to design tools that facilitate human rights violations, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database of biometric data.

As two of the authors of this letter have forcefully argued, face recognition technology represents an unprecedented threat to privacy and civil liberties that even the best traditional forms of regulation will almost certainly fail to mitigate. Amazon has an obligation to consider the privacy harms, and threats to civil and human rights, from the infrastructure of cameras, face databases, and biometric data its products are creating.

Recent studies of facial recognition systems deployed in the United Kingdom have shown unacceptably low levels of accuracy. However, even a highly accurate, ubiquitous identification and tracking system itself poses a grave threat to society—a matter on which there is bipartisan agreement even in this sharply divided political climate. Brian Brakeen, CEO of the facial recognition company Kairos, has acknowledged that their own technology presents such serious privacy concerns that they will not sell it to governments, while the City of Orlando, Florida has dropped its use of Rekognition following the expression of privacy concerns.

Amazon’s insistence that there has been “no reported law enforcement abuse of Amazon Rekognition” is a woefully insufficient response. Just as Amazon sees no evidence of abuse of Rekognition by law enforcement, we see no evidence of a sufficient reporting system for such abuse. Nor does there appear to be any established system for documenting, let alone preventing, the use of Rekognition for illegal discrimination, or in violation of human, civil or privacy rights. Indeed, this technology would amplify existing forms of implicit bias against vulnerable minorities, and enable even more powerful forms of explicit discrimination and oppression.

It is incumbent upon powerful companies like Amazon to sharply restrict the sale of products such as Rekognition, while they work to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the development and deployment their technologies.

We thus call upon Amazon to:

  • Stop supplying government and law enforcement agencies with facial recognition technology.
  • Cancel its cloud services contracts with Palantir and other intermediary companies that provide data analytics and AI services to police or militaries.
  • Establish ethical guidelines that prohibit the weaponization and militarization of this and other technologies that threaten privacy, civil and human rights, and establish transparency and accountability mechanisms to ensure those guidelines are implemented.



Add Your Signature to this Letter:

Total Signatures: 479, showing 100 per page
Jonathan Parkinson Senior Research Associate Biolanalytics USA
Professor Gregory Kealey Professor Emeritus History Univ of New Brunswick Canada
Mrs. Chirstine Johnstons rertired professor social work Uni of Toronto Canada
Mr. Raul Anorve Mr. United States
Koji Payne Australia
Daniela Rosner Assistant Professor Human Centered Design And Engineering University of Washington United States
Ms. Vicky Zeamer UX Researcher for Machine Learning Engineering HubSpot USA
Ms Sigrid Asmus Editor Self-employed United States
Miss Giulia Tillack Student University of Melbourne Australia
Gen Bond Canada
Ms. Patricia Ann Scott United Statqes
Nicholas Goodwin United States
Mr M. Belanger Staff Science York University Canada
Steven Tiell Sr. Principal Technology Vision + Data Ethics Accenture USA
Dr. Sara Tolbert Associate Professor Science Education United States
Nafise Sadat Moosavi Postdoc Computer Science Technical University of Darmstadt Germany
Ben Green PhD Candidate Applied Math Harvard University United States
Dr. Emily West Associate Professor Communication University of Massachusetts USA
Professor Roberta Bivins University of Warwick UK
Dr. Johanna Brewer Co-Founder Information & Computer Science Neta Snook USA
Ms. Roya Pakzad Research Associate Stanford University USA
Dredge Kang Assistant Professor Anthropology University of California San Diego United States
Dr. Goetz Herrmann Lecturer Media Studies Paderborn University Germany
Dr. Marisa Brandt Assistant Professor of Practice in History, Philosophy, & Sociology of Science Lyman Briggs College Michigan State University USA
Dr. sava saheli singh postdoctoral fellow Surveillance Studies Centre Queen's University Canada
marisol de la cadena professor Anthropology UC Davis USA
Salem Elzway PhD Candidate History University of Michigan United States
PhD Brit Winthereik Professor BusinessIT/Technologies in Practice/Science and Technology Studies IT University of Copenhagen Denmark
Professor Lilly Nguyen Assistant Professor Women's and Gender Studies UNC-Chapel Hill USA
Dr Karen Waltorp Assistant Professor Anthropology Aarhus Univetsity Denmark
Ms. Jacqueline (Jackie) T. Rabbitski Canada
Ms Tresha Elliott USA
Dr. Olga Kuchinskaya Associate Professor Communication University of Pittsburgh USA
Nathan Lane Graduate Student Anthropology UC Davis USA
Dr. Tobias Bornakke Partner Analyse & Tal F.M.B.A. Denmark
Henrik mathorne Teacher Denmark
Mr Allan Crawshaw Canada
Ajay Karpur Chief Technology Officer Human-Computer Interfaces Somatic Labs USA
Dr Wufei Ma Computer Science China
Dr Leslie Sanders Professot Humanities York University Canada
Pasquale Di Maria Student computer engineering Federico II Italy
Allen Goodman Computer vision Broad Institute United States
Dr Nuria Querol Member Deontology Comission Barcelona Medical Association Spain
MR Shaf Patel Director SNCooperative United States
Dr Andrew Ó Baoill Lecturer School of Humanities NUI Galway Ireland
professor judy wajcman professor sociology LSE UK
Prof. MSc. Frederico Meinberg Ceroy Public Prosecutor Personal Data Protection Commission Ministério Público do Distrito Federal e Territórios Brazil
Sergei Zhilin PhD Candidate TU Delft Netherlands
Zachary Gorelick JD/MA Candidate School of Media and Journalism & School of Law University of North Carolina USA
Mr. Liam Brown Philosophy Teacher Public Secondary School Australia
ms georgiana murariu United Kingdom
Yelena Gluzman PhD Candidate Communication UCSD United States
Prof. Alina Beary Assistant Professor Torrey Honors Institute Biola Univeristy USA
Ms Katrina Sluis Senior Lecturer Photography & Media Arts London South Bank University UK
Dr Laura Watts Senior Lecturer Geography University of Edinburgh UK
Van Rossem Wouter PhD Student Science, Technology, and Policy Studies University of Twente Netherlands
Prof Dr Tanja Lange Full professor Math & CS Eindhoven University of Technology The Netherlands
Angela Lehman Instructor English Language Program Virginia Commonwealth University USA
Prof Vance Ricks Associate Professor Philosophy Guilford College USA
Ms. Staci Meredith Weiss Research Associate Neuroscience and Psychology Temple University United States
Prof. Caroline Streeter Associate Professor English & Af Am Studies UCLA USA
Ms. Rahaf Albalkhi Master Student Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Victoria Canada
Prof. Alvaro Dillinger Full Professor of Chemistry School of Science Andorra Inst. of Tech. Andorra
Haci Dalyar Ak Sidewalk Engineer Dudullu Pimphouse Republic of Fenerbahce
Professor/Director James Hay Institute of Communications Research College of Media University of Illinois USA
Professor Robert Sparrow Professor of philosophy Philosophy Monash University Australia
Prof. Rachel German PhD Candidate Government University of Texas at Austin United States
Dr Pricefield Professor Law BlackWell University USA
Prof. Emanuelle Burton Lecturer in Ethics Computer Science University of Illinois at Chicago USA
Gabrielle Farias Student Instituto Brasiliense de Direito Público Brazil
Miss Shay Hadid Student Digital War The New School USA
Mr. Derek Schiavone Graduate Student International Affairs The New School United States
Mr. Max Haarich Ambassador Munich Embassy Government of the Republic of Užupis Republic of Užupis
Bernhard Henselmann Germany
American Citizen Elizabeth Galante Mom USA
Mr Bharat Prakash PhD Student Computer Science University of Maryland Baltimore County USA
Mr Sameer. Gupta India
Ms. Katy Major Adjunct Instructor English Ashland University United States
Mr. William Halvorsen Owner Software Development Gokegian Games Canada

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