This Week, Amazon Has a Chance to Prove It Can Do the Right Thing on Its Own



Illustration of the article entitled This week, Amazon has the opportunity to show that it can do the right thing by itself
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On Wednesday, during an Amazon shareholders meeting, investors will vote on proposals to push for greater oversight of the facial recognition efforts of the technology giant. But there are a series of warnings.

There are two proposals related to facial recognition technology: one would prohibit Amazon from selling this technology to government agencies unless the board decides, after an independent investigation, that it would not be a violation of human rights, according to a Commission document. Security and Exchange. The second requests an independent investigation and a report on Amazon's facial recognition technology, Rekognition, which details "to what extent such technology may endanger, threaten or violate privacy and civil rights, the extent to which such technologies can be marketed and sold to certain countries, foreign governments, and the financial or operational risks badociated with these issues. "

Amazon's Rekognition system has been mired in controversy, with workers demanding that the company terminate its contracts with the police and several external studies that reveal that it has struggled to identify people of color. And yet, an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union last year found that the company pushed this technology hard into government and law enforcement agencies, the first of which admitted not using the technology as recommended. Amazon

The shareholders' proposals mark the growing public concern about this powerful surveillance tool and its deployment in a (mostly) space without laws and without regulation, especially from one of the most powerful companies in the world. But Wednesday's vote will likely serve as a grand procedural call to action, even if the votes pbad.

Bezos, even after his divorce, still holds a 12 percent stake in the company. Earlier this year, he maintained his position as Amazon's main shareholder. Bezos has expressed interest in working in tangent with government agencies, which makes his vote in favor of these proposals unlikely. During a summit last year, Bezos defended Amazon's contract with the Department of Defense and suggested that governments are better equipped to solve national and widespread problems. "We want people to be able to pursue things they think are important and we want governments to look for things that are important," Bezos said, Verge reported. He added: "There are things that only governments can do, just by scale. My Amazon shares are small compared to the resources of the federal government of the United States. "

But Bezos' actions in this case are almost a direct line to resources for the US federal government. UU., If I had to support the proposals that require greater supervision and transparency around Amazon facial recognition technology, an indisputably crucial first step given to the company. has not established an ethics board, then government agencies would not be able to catch the company's technology so easily. Under the first proposal, the technician would need a third party to determine that it would not violate any human or civil rights before it could be sold to a government agency.

"This piece of equipment that Amazon has fostered and developed and is really spreading at this point does not seem to be the best for the common good," said Sister Pat Mahoney, member of the Sisters of San Jose, Amazon's investor who presented the first proposal, he told the New York Times. "Facial recognition all over the place makes everyone live in a police state."

We have contacted Amazon to comment on these proposals, and in the event that they obtain a majority vote, if the company honors these calls to action. But as mentioned, these votes are not binding, and Amazon does not have to really consider them or enact them. And even if they did, the proposals do not generally prohibit facial recognition technology: they ask for more supervision, which is great, but there is still room for technology to be exploited. That is why the laws that prohibit the use of all this have become increasingly urgent, and why the federal regulation, to which the president of Microsoft and the legal officer, Brad Smith, asked, makes more sense than trusting where companies decide to monitor themselves.

"We live in a nation of laws, and the government must play an important role in the regulation of facial recognition technology," Smith wrote in a blog last year. "As a general principle, it seems more sensible to ask an elected government to regulate the companies than to ask the unelected companies to regulate such a government."


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