Amazon has come under fire of late for the licensing of its controversial Rekognition system, a powerful piece of facial recognition software, to government and law enforcement agencies, with the most recent development involving revelations that Amazon met with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the summer to strike a deal for Rekognition use.
Amazon Web Services CEO Andrew Jassy told employees at an all-hands meeting today that, “We feel really great and really strongly about the value that Amazon Rekognition is providing our customers of all sizes and all types of industries in law enforcement and out of law enforcement,” according to an Amazon employee who spoke with The Verge under the condition of anonymity and provided a partial transcript of the conversation.
Jassy was tapped by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to specifically answer a question about Rekognition and potential government contracts with organizations like ICE.
Jassy went on to say that “you don’t want to get rid of that technology,” but noted how violations of AWS’ terms of service or violations in general of constitutional rights would force Amazon to ban use of its services.
Compounding Amazon’s participating in government contracts with Rekognition is research proving the system is deeply flawed, both in terms of accuracy and regarding inherent racial bias.
Amazon isn’t the only technology giant experiencing pushback from its own employees about how products are sold to and used by the US government.
Here’s the full transcript of the exchange from the all-hands meeting: Q: What is being done in response to the concerns voiced by both Amazon employees and civil rights groups regarding Amazon selling facial recognition technology to government and police organizations, including ICE?
AWS CEO Andrew Jassy: Thank you, so we’re referring to Amazon Rekognition, which is AWS’ deep learning image recognition, facial recognition, video recognition service and, you know, with over five hundred thousand employees like we have at Amazon, I think we’re going to have people who have opinions that are very wide-ranging, which is great.
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