Often we think of tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple as
The Medium post starts with the writer saying that tech companies have a responsibility to think about the consequences of selling their tech. This Amazon employee claims that Amazon is actively selling their facial recognition product, Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies. The writer goes on to say that they and others have demanded the company stop immediately.
A couple weeks ago, my co-workers delivered a letter to this effect, signed by over 450 employees, to Jeff Bezos and other executives. The letter also contained demands to kick Palantir, the software firm that powers much of ICE’s deportation and tracking program, off Amazon Web Services and to institute employee oversight for ethical decisions.
We know Bezos is aware of these concerns and the industry-wide conversation happening right now. On stage, he acknowledged that big tech’s products might be misused, even exploited, by autocrats. But rather than meaningfully explain how Amazon will act to prevent the bad uses of its own technology, Bezos suggested we wait for society’s “immune response.”
The writer goes on to point out that law enforcement is already using this technology with “virtually no public oversight.” Furthermore, they claim that Amazon is offering no “debate or restrictions on use.”
Orlando, Florida, is testing Rekognition with live video feeds from surveillance cameras around the city. A sheriff’s department in Oregon is currently using Rekognition to let officers in the field compare photos to a database of mugshots. This is not a hypothetical situation.
The writer goes on to cite some Amazon executives and talk a bit about why tech companies shouldn’t be selling these products to law enforcement. They cite privacy and rights and give various examples they believe are catalysts for use of this type of technology. The writer’s key takeaway of this whole piece is as follows:
Amazon talks a lot about values of leadership. If we want to lead, we need to make a choice between people and profits. We can sell dangerous surveillance systems to police or we can stand up for what’s right. We can’t do both.