Amazon extends ban on its “Rekognition” tool amid racial bias concerns

Washington, May 19, 2021: Amid bias and partiality concerns, tech giant Amazon has said that it is extending the ban on its use of facial recognition tool by law enforcement.

The ban which was initially enforced last June was implemented as a one-year moratorium on the police of its facial recognition technology. The company said the ban was placed to address some concerns about the misuse of the facial recognition tool, particularly against some ethnic groups. Amazon said the pause on the would give the US Congress time to formulate regulations and safeguards against the potential misuse of the tool. The announcement to extend the ban came on Tuesday without any further explanation.

The ban came into force when states across the US were witnessing protests over police brutality and that the problem was compounded to the detriment of the African American community because the facial recognition tools were flawed in analyzing the features of that ethnicity. Activists who advocated against the use of the tool by police forces highlight the inability of the algorithm to intentionally or otherwise not discriminate between the unique features of every individual in the African American community.

Amazon’s cloud computing-based “Rekognition” facial recognition technology and Ring surveillance cameras used for home security have been the primary target of activists, with a coalition of activist groups last week calling for Amazon to scrap “Rekognition” altogether. According to a member of Fight for the Future, Evan Greer, facial recognition technology is volatile and hence too dangerous to be placed at the whims of corporations especially big tech giants like Amazon.

Though it was not immediately clear to what extent law enforcement and policing authorities have used the technology, Amazon urged lawmakers and governments to enact regulations so ethical and lawful use of the technology can be assured. Following the move by Amazon, Microsoft and IBM also enforced similar bans.

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