Amazon to pause police use of its facial recognition tool amid wave of protests

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Amazon said Wednesday it will pause police use of its facial recognition software Rekognition for one year, a move that comes amid rising scrutiny of law enforcement surveillance of activists protesting the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

The tech giant announced in a blog post it’s “implementing a one-year moratorium on police use” of the software, used by scores of law enforcement agencies around the country, but will continue to provide it to some organizations that deploy it to fight human trafficking. The move follows a more drastic action by rival IBM, which told Congress this week it’s getting out of the facial recognition business over concerns the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge,” Amazon said. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.”

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Democratic lawmakers in recent weeks have voiced alarm over reports that local and federal authorities have deployed various tools, including facial recognition, to monitor those attending the racial justice protests rocking the country.

Top Democrats separately revived their push to restrict the software in a major recent police reform package that included new limits on warrantless use of the tool.

But broader efforts to pass legislation cracking down on police use of facial recognition has stalled for months in Congress, despite rare bipartisan agreement on the need for legislative action.

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