Amazon Ignores Black and Brown Activists Demanding an End to the Sale of Rekognition Technology to Local and Federal Law Enforcement, As Moratorium Expires in One Month
Amazon’s temporary one-year ban on continuing to sell Rekognition—its sexist and racist facial recognition software—to federal and local law enforcement is set to expire in one month, this June 10. With no commitments from the company to extend the moratorium, cease the development of this dangerous technology and end all of its surveillance partnerships with police that harm Black and Brown communities, MediaJustice—in partnership with the more than four dozen groups part of the Athena Coalition—is mobilizing activists of color across the country to pressure the corporation to end Rekognition’s further sale to all police departments and US government agencies.
Said Myaisha Hayes, Campaign Strategies Director at MediaJustice:
“Rekognition, a deeply flawed algorithm of oppression that Amazon created and sold to government and corporate entities, allows law enforcement to ensnare even more Black and brown people in their mass incarceration and mass deportation machines. Amazon must permanently ban the sale of their dangerous facial recognition software to police and federal agents before the company’s one-year moratorium expires on June 10.
“After months-long protests in the streets and on social media, millions of people united to demand an end to investments in policing that unjustly criminalize our communities. Amazon’s sale of Rekognition to law enforcement—local and federal—expand the resources they are able to harness to surveil and imprison us, our family members, friends and neighbors.
“Amazon puts profits over our lives as it continues to invest in Rekognition and other technology that enables the policing of Black and brown people, threatening their right to exist and move freely in public space. In partnership with the Athena Coalition, we call on Amazon to permanently ban facial recognition and end all surveillance partnerships with police and immigration forces across the country, which sacrifice freedom for scrutiny and surveillance.”
Rekognition disproportionally misidentifies women and people of color and operates without any regulation or oversight from the US government. Rekognition was already piloted by the FBI, whose massive facial recognition apparatus continues to expand and can now match against 640 million photos—more than the total US population. In a MIT Media Lab study, Rekognition misclassified women as men 19 percent of the time and darker-skinned women as men 31 percent of the time. An ACLU report showed that Rekognition misidentified 28 members of Congress as criminals and the false matches disportionately affected people of color.
At least seven states and nearly two dozen cities have limited government use of facial recognition technology and debate over its deployment has been underway in about 20 state capitals this legislative session.
Beginning on Monday, June 7—the week that Amazon’s moratorium on selling Rekognition to law enforcement expires, MediaJustice will be leading the #EyesonAmazon week of action. This week of action will put the spotlight on how Amazon is using their monopoly power and surveillance technology to harm people of color.
For interviews or more information, please contact Christina DiPasquale at [email protected] or 202.716.1953.
MediaJustice is dedicated to building a grassroots movement for a more just and participatory media—fighting for racial, economic, and gender justice in a digital age. MediaJustice boldly advances communication rights, access, and power for communities harmed by persistent dehumanization, discrimination and disadvantage. Home of the #MediaJusticeNetwork, comprised of more than 100 grassroots partners, we envision a future where everyone is connected, represented, and free.