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article imageAmazon holds off Rekognition revolt

By Tim Sandle     May 28, 2019 in Technology
Amazon, and supporters of facial recognition software, have succeeded in defeating a shareholder-led Rekognition revolt by a large margin. Rekognition is Amazon's proprietary facial recognition technology.
The attempted shareholder revolt against Amazon marketing its facial recognition technology to police and security services has failed. The attempt by more liberal minded share holders did not succeed and mustered less than 3 percent of votes cast at the e-commerce giant's recent annual general meeting in May 2019. Amazon Rekognition is based on scalable, deep learning technology, as developed by Amazon’s computer vision scientists, and which can assess millions of video and computer images.
The vote:
The proposal to ban governments from making use of Rekognition gained 8.3 million votes, and there were 327 million votes placed in opposition, plus some 5.5 million abstentions.
Amazon's defense, to offset any shareholder concerns, was that it was aware that there had been some civil rights concerns expressed by wider society. However, the company states that it had not received any reports of law enforcement clients misusing its proprietary Rekognition tool.
Amazon's statement is not in keeping with concerns expressed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been running a campaign against the technology. The ACLU has been seeking to shame Amazon into halting its sales of facial recognition technology.
READ MORE: Orlando begins testing Amazon's facial recognition in public
Furthermore, eight U.S. lawmakers recently issued an open letter requesting that Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos explain how the company’s technology works and where it will be used, in light of concerns about inherent bias underpinning the technology.
READ MORE: Amazon facial recognition software may be racially biased
There have also been concerns expressed about gender bias. This is outlined in a study from Inioluwa Deborah Raji (University of Toronto) and Joy Buolamwini (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Their research is titled "Actionable Auditing: Investigating the Impact of Publicly Naming Biased Performance Results of Commercial AI Products." The research not only highlights examples of flaws in the system, it presents concerns that U.S. police services are not necessarily always using the software as Amazon recommends.
READ MORE: Is there racial and gender bias in Amazon Rekognition AI?
Despite these charges and misgivings it appears that Amazon has weathered the storm., according to the BBC. Amazon shareholders did not not end up passing a ban of Rekognition.
However, this does not mean the campaign to ban or to restrict Rekognition is over. Republican and Democrat politicians who sit on the House Oversight Committee plan to continue to review the control and implementation of the facial recognition AI.
More about Rekognition, Facial recognition, Amazon
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