BREAKING: MediaJustice Demands Amazon Permanently End Sale of Surveillance Tech to Police and Federal Agents
Black and Brown Activists Led Pressure for Amazon Moratorium Extension Reported in Reuters Exclusive, Less than One Month Before Expiration
Today in a Reuters exclusive, Amazon told the outlet it is indefinitely extending a moratorium on the sale of Rekognition, their facial recognition software, to police. MediaJustice—in partnership with the more than 50 groups part of the Athena Coalition—is mobilizing activists of color across the country to pressure Amazon to permanently end Rekognition’s further sale to all police departments and US government agencies.
Said Myaisha Hayes, Campaign Strategies Director at MediaJustice:
“Amazon’s Rekognition software has enabled the policing of Black and Brown people, feeding the United States’ mass incarceration and mass deportation machines, and thousands stood up against Amazon’s expansion of tactics to surveil and imprison our communities.
“Extending the moratorium on the further sale of Rekognition to law enforcement, announced today, is not enough for those targeted before the moratorium or for our activists, family members and neighbors whose right to exist and move freely in public space remains threatened every day Amazon refuses to enforce a permanent ban. Amazon must make a commitment to prevent any future sale of their surveillance tech to police and federal agencies, anything less is unacceptable.”
MediaJustice and their partners and allies have leveraged relentless pressure over the past three years urging Amazon to end its use and sale of facial recognition and surveillance software, without a response from Amazon. Last week, MediaJustice sent an open letter, signed by more than 40 organizations, to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and CEO of Amazon Web Services Andy Jassy, urging Amazon to permanently ban law enforcement from using the company’s facial recognition software. MediaJustice’s “Break Up With Amazon” campaign organizes customers of color and activists to cut ties with the retail giant in support of Black lives, protesting Amazon’s contributions to the evolution and expansion of digital policing.
Amazon remained silent in the wake of the MediaJustice-led 2019 petition campaign and the 2018 coalition effort demanding Amazon stop selling their facial recognition to law enforcement. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote CEO Jeff Bezos stating their concern that the technology has a “high propensity for misuse.” This same year, MediaJustice and 70 organizations sent another open letter to Amazon and delivered a petition with 150,000 signatures.
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 was set to expire this year, 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.