Risks of Sales of Facial Recognition Software

2019 – Amazon.com, Inc



WHEREAS, shareholders are concerned Amazon’s facial recognition technology (“Rekognition”) poses risk to civil and human rights and shareholder value.


Civil liberties organizations, academics, and shareholders have demanded Amazon halt sales of Rekognition to government, concerned that our Company is enabling a surveillance system “readily available to violate rights and target communities of color.” Four hundred fifty Amazon employees echoed this demand, posing a talent and retention risk.


Brian Brackeen, former Chief Executive Officer of facial recognition company Kairos, said, “Any company in this space that willingly hands [facial recognition] software over to a government, be it America or another nation’s, is willfully endangering people’s lives.”


In Florida and Oregon, police have piloted Rekognition.


Amazon Web Services already provides cloud computing services to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and is reportedly marketing Rekognition to ICE, despite concerns Rekognition could facilitate immigrant surveillance and racial profiling.


Rekognition contradicts Amazon’s opposition to facilitating surveillance. In 2016, Amazon supported a lawsuit against government “gag orders,” stating: “the fear of secret surveillance could limit the adoption and use of cloud services … Users should not be put to a choice between reaping the benefits of technological innovation and maintaining the privacy rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”


Shareholders have little evidence our Company is effectively restricting the use of Rekognition to protect privacy and civil rights. In July 2018, a reporter asked Amazon executive Teresa Carlson whether Amazon has “drawn any red lines, any standards, guidelines, on what you will and you will not do in terms of defense work.” Carlson responded: “We have not drawn any lines there...We are unwaveringly in support of our law enforcement, defense, and intelligence community.”


In July 2018, lawmakers asked the Government Accountability Office to study whether “commercial entities selling facial recognition adequately audit use of their technology to ensure that use is not unlawful, inconsistent with terms of service, or otherwise raise privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns.”


Microsoft has called for government regulation of facial recognition technology, saying, “if we move too fast, we may find that people’s fundamental rights are being broken.”


RESOLVED, shareholders request that the Board of Directors prohibit sales of facial recognition technology to government agencies unless the Board concludes, after an evaluation using independent evidence, that the technology does not cause or contribute to actual or potential violations of civil and human rights.


Supporting Statement: Proponents recommend the Board consult with technology and civil liberties experts and civil and human rights advocates to assess:


• The extent to which such technology may endanger or violate privacy or civil rights, and disproportionately impact people of color, immigrants, and activists, and how Amazon would mitigate these risks.


• The extent to which such technologies may be marketed and sold to repressive governments, identified by the United States Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.