Rep. Jimmy Gomez and Sen. Edward Markey Lead Bicameral Letter to Jeff Bezos Expressing Civil Rights Concerns about Amazon’s Facial Recognition Technology

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) – joined by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04), John Lewis (GA-05), Judy Chu (CA-27), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) – led a bicameral letter to Amazon Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting information about Amazon’s facial recognition technology, branded and sold as “Amazon Rekognition.”

In letters sent to Amazon on July 26, 2018 and July 27, 2018, Rep. Gomez, Sen. Markey, the ACLU, and a bipartisan group of legislators conveyed their alarm about the efficacy and constitutional impact of Amazon Rekognition on communities of color. To date, Amazon has failed to provide sufficient answers to their specific requests on this subject.

“Facial recognition technology may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials working to protect the American public and keep us safe,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Mr. Bezos. “However, at this time, we have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public.” 

A copy of the letter to Amazon can be found HERE.

In their letter, the lawmakers ask Amazon to provide:

-- Results of any internal accuracy or bias assessments that Amazon has performed on Rekognition.

-- Detailed information on how Amazon tests for facial recognition accuracy, how often Amazon tests, and whether these results have been independently verified.

-- Detailed information on how Amazon tests for bias in its facial recognition results, especially racial bias. 

The lawmakers also asked Amazon to respond to questions that include:

-- Does Amazon build protections into the Rekognition system to protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans caught up in either the biometric databases used by law enforcement for comparisons, or in the data law enforcement uses to search those databases? 

-- Does Amazon Rekognition contain a mechanism for automatically deleting unused biometric data?

-- Does Amazon conduct audits of Rekognition use by law enforcement to ensure that (1) the software is not being abused for secretive government surveillance, (2) the software is not facilitating systems that disproportionately impact people based on protected characteristics in potential violation of federal civil rights laws, and (3) the software is not being used in violation of Amazon’s terms of use?

-- Is Amazon Rekognition currently integrated with any police body-camera technology or existing public-facing camera networks? 


Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.