Contact Info: Imran Siddiquee, [email protected], 217-390-6279
Following recent reports of Amazon’s Ring hosting a racist staff party, racial justice and civil rights groups signed an open letter calling for an apology and a meeting with the tech giant to discuss the dangers their technology and practices pose to people of color.
Not only were the Ring employees costumed as racist caricatures of Indigenous and Native Americans, with painted faces and headdresses to the staff party, the company posted the offensive images on Facebook.
This is not a first for Amazon.
In the letter, MediaJustice and other groups outline the ways Amazon’s surveillance technologies and partnerships automate discrimination. A few of the concerns highlighted in the letter:
- Amazon continues to commercialize and monetize dangerous surveillance tools that merely increase the state’s ability to monitor and track Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (BIPOC).
- The Neighbors app stokes false alarms over “rising” crime by encouraging neighbors to spy on one another. This app is not designed to prevent crime, but rather it is designed to escalate neighborhood watch programs where individuals are likely to make assumptions about people of color, people experiencing homelessness, and other marginalized people.
- Numerous studies have indicated that Amazon’s facial recognition technology is error-prone and inaccurate when identifying the faces of darker-skinned people, transgender people, gender non conforming people, and women. This technology will undoubtedly increase the suspected criminality of communities of color, resulting in more false misidentifications and potentially harmful interactions with police.
“Amazon’s Ring offers the police unprecedented access to data recorded by its video doorbell devices, effectively bringing police surveillance to our front doors,” says Myaisha Hayes, National Field Organizer for Criminal Justice and Tech at MediaJustice. “This technology digitizes racial profiling while perpetuating the routine criminalization and over-policing that communities of color already face. Through Ring and its free reporting app Neighbors, Amazon is fueling its surveillance empire by stoking a false panic about rising crime — weaponizing racism in a way that was mirrored at this party.”
The groups hope to use the meeting with Amazon to discuss specific policies the company needs to implement to prevent discrimination and ensure BIPOCs’ civil rights are protected.