Amazon Can Continue Selling Facial Analysis Tech to the Government

Shareholders voted down two proposals for restriction

Amazon won't have to limit sales of its controversial facial analysis tool. Amazon
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Amazon shareholders voted down two proposals impacting its facial analysis technology, Rekognition, during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle on Wednesday.

They sought to restrict the sale of Rekognition to government agencies, stemming from concerns the company “is enabling a surveillance system readily available to violate rights and target communities of color.”

The first proposal requested the board prohibit sales to said agencies outright unless it concluded the technology “does not cause or contribute to actual or potential violations of civil and human rights.” In particular, it asked the board to assess the extent to which the technology may violate privacy and rights and disproportionately impact people of color, immigrants and activists, as well as the extent to which it might be sold to repressive governments.

The second proposal asked the board to commission an independent study on the extent to which Rekognition may violate rights, the extent to which it may be sold to authoritarian or repressive foreign governments and the financial and operational risks associated with those human rights issues.

“The recent failures of Facebook to engage in sufficient content and privacy management and the resulting economic impacts to that company should be taken as sufficient warning: It could happen to Amazon,” the proposal noted.

There were also notes in all caps after each proposal, noting the board recommended a vote against it. Shareholders complied.

An Amazon rep said additional details will be filed with the SEC and available later this week.

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@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.