Amazon employees, investors protest US govt Rekognition sales

Occurred: May 2018-October 2018

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Efforts by Amazon to sell its Rekognition facial recognition system to US law enforcement agencies provoked a strong backlash from Amazon employees, investors, and rights advocates. 

In May 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had found that Amazon had been actively marketing Rekognition to police departments and government agencies across the US, pointing out civil liberties concerns and the ease with which the technology can be misused. 

A month later, the ACLU delivered a petition with over 150,000 signatures to Amazon headquarters, alongside a coalition letter signed by nearly 70 digital rights organisations. 

The same day, 19 investor groups warned then Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos that the technology 'may not only pose a privacy threat to customers and other stakeholders across the country, but may also raise substantial risks for our Company, negatively impacting our company’s stock valuation and increasing financial risk for shareholders.'

It also emerged that Amazon employees had written to Jeff Bezos asking him to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement and to stop supporting controversial data mining company Palantir with its cloud services.

In October 2018, documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight showed that Amazon representatives had met with Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, triggering further complaints

In June 2020, Amazon announced it would implement a one-year moratorium on police use of Rekognition in the US.


Operator: Washington County Sheriff's Office  
Developer: Amazon
Country: USA
Sector: Govt - immigration
Purpose: Control immigration
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race; Human/civil rights; Oversight; Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance