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Amazon Pitches Shady Facial Recognition Laws

Amazon Pitches Shady Facial Recognition Laws

By CultureBanx Team

  • Amazon’s policy team has started drafting up facial recognition regulations for lawmakers

  • Facial recognition systems confused light-skin men 0.8% of the time and 34.7% for dark-skin women

Amazon (AMZN -0.83%) wants to solidify the use of its facial “Rekognition” technology by drafting up its own laws in hopes of getting federal regulators to adopt them. The company’s policy team’s bold new step to start drafting regulations for this technology, shows just how important it is for Amazon’s Web Service division, which sells the Rekognition software. With the global market for facial recognition set to surpass a valuation of $8 billion in 2022, is Amazon putting making money ahead of personal privacy, discrimination and the potential for abuse that could lead to incidents of racial profiling?

Why This Matters: Earlier this year the company stepped up efforts to audit its A.I. for Rekognition. They worked with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop standardized tests around this issue and improve accuracy. This was in addition to the published guidelines Amazon hoped lawmakers would consider using around the technology. Herein lies the problem, AWS accounted for 13% of the company’s Q2 2019 revenues and 52% of its $3.1 billion in operating income. This highlights why the company is so invested in exactly how the technology is regulated as it relates the impact on its business.

Is Amazon putting making money ahead of personal privacy, discrimination and the potential for abuse that could lead to incidents of racial profiling?

“Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations; it makes a lot of sense to regulate that,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at its annual Alexa gadget event in Seattle last week. He went on to comment about the positive uses for the technology, “But, at the same time, there’s also potential for abuses of that kind of technology, so you do want regulations. It’s a classic dual-use kind of technology.”

Research shows commercial artificial intelligence systems tend to have higher error rates for women and black people. Some facial recognition systems would only confuse light-skin men 0.8% of the time and would have an error rate of 34.7% for dark-skin women. A glitch like this could lead to bias among minorities and immigrants.

Situational Awareness: The ACLU has called out companies like Amazon with its Rekognition tool that’s been rolled out to police departments across the U.S., as a threat to civil liberties. Its controversial Rekognition was found to have misidentified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes, raising new concerns for racial profiling and potential law enforcement abuse. The false matches disproportionately involved members of Congress who are people of color. 

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