UPDATE: We earned a huge victory on May 18. After years of fighting, and one week after we launched our #EyesOnAmazon campaign in partnership with the Athena Coalition, Amazon announced it would extend the moratorium on police use of facial recognition software. This is a victory for our people—not corporate goodwill. “Until further notice” isn’t the same as “total ban.” There are still unmet demands on the table, so our #EyesOnAmazon Week of Action will keep advancing this fight until all are met.
Dear Mr. Bezos and Mr. Jassy,
We the undersigned organizations call on Amazon to permanently ban law enforcement from using Amazon’s facial recognition software, Rekognition.
In response to protest against police violence, in 2020 Amazon halted the sale of Rekognition for a year. As the expiration date of that moratorium approaches, the problem of police violence against the Black community persists. Nearly 200 Black people have been killed by police since the murder of George Floyd. Allowing police to use Rekognition, a dangerous surveillance tool, poses a threat to the safety of Black communities and others who are already being unfairly targeted and surveilled by law enforcement.
Mr. Jassy last year you tweeted that “we will never have justice” if we don’t hold police departments accountable for murdering Black people. While Derek Chauvin has been held accountable by the criminal legal system for killing George Floyd, it can’t deliver the justice our communities are demanding. Justice is righteousness in action, and Amazon has an opportunity to align your words with deeds that demonstrate you and your company truly believe #BlackLivesMatter.
For years the Civil Rights and Racial Justice community have detailed the dangers of Amazon’s facial recognition product, with a particular focus on how this technology is arming and expanding the very same violent police force we protest. Any enhancement of the existing unjust system is by definition in direct opposition to our efforts to protect our communities from future state violence. Last summer we saw the first publicized case of police misidentification using facial recognition. When given a choice, our communities are saying no to police use of facial recognition. More than a dozen cities have passed ordinances banning facial recognition and legislation at the federal level has called for an indefinite moratorium.
Even during the temporary moratorium on Rekognition, Amazon’s surveillance tools are being used to target those who demand justice. Last summer millions of people, the largest mobilization in our country’s history, marched in the streets to fight for a future beyond policing. Law enforcement responded by utilizing the technology that companies like Amazon provide, to surveil and criminalize protesters. In Los Angeles, police used video from Amazon’s Ring to investigate people who protested against police violence. Surveillance technology in the hands of police will continue to be used disproportionately to oppress and harm people of color and monitor protests.
As a company, Amazon has a choice to make: Will you continue to profit from selling surveillance technology to law enforcement? Or will you stand for Black lives and divest from giving law enforcement these harmful tools?
Mr. Bezos, last summer you faced your own backlash from Amazon customers in response to your verbal support for #BlackLivesMatter. You said then that racist customers who don’t support this movement for justice are the “kind of customer I’m happy to lose.” As Amazon’s one year moratorium on selling Rekognition to police expires, your sentiment will be put to the test. It is impossible to sell surveillance tech to law enforcement, and also stand in solidarity with Black lives. We urge you to do the right thing: make the ban on police use of Rekognition permanent and abolish surveillance technology.
Action Center on Race and the Economy
AI for the People
Anne Braden Project
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Color of Change
Demand Progress Education Fund
Detroit Community Technology Project
Dignity & Power NOW
Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO)
Fight for the Future
For Us Not Amazon
Jobs With Justice
Justice For Muslims Collective
May First Movement Technology
National Lawyers Guild
New York Communities for Change
Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative)
Organized Communities Against Deportations
OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Partnership for Working Families
Progressive Technology Project
S.T.O.P. – Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
Stand Up Nashville
The American Civil Liberties Union
The Carceral Tech Resistance Network
The George Washington University Law School
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
United Voices of Cortland
Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center