Amazon executives defended the company’s controversial facial recognition technology at an all-hands staff meeting Thursday after employees raised civil rights concerns about the tech’s potential misuse, according to a transcript of the internal meeting obtained by BuzzFeed News. An employee who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they along with their colleagues were disappointed inside response.
After BuzzFeed News reached out to the company, Amazon declined comment.
Andy Jassy, the CEO of the company’s cloud-computing arm, Amazon Web Services, deflected employee criticisms over how Amazon has aggressively marketed its Amazon Rekognition product to law enforcement agencies across the country along with US Immigration along with Customs Enforcement (ICE). “I think we’re going to have people who have opinions in which are very wide-ranging, which will be great, yet we feel genuinely great along with genuinely strongly about the value in which Amazon Rekognition will be providing our customers of all sizes along with all types of industries in law enforcement, along with out of law enforcement,” Jassy said. He added in which he thought This particular was the government’s responsibility to help specify regulations around the technology.
Though the company-wide Q&A was not meant to only address concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition deals with law enforcement, This particular was a major topic on employees’ minds. Since news of those deals has come out, Amazon faced extensive criticism coming from civil rights groups, Amazon shareholders, along with its own employees. Collectively, they sounded the alarm on mass surveillance along with free speech questions surrounding Amazon’s campaign to provide facial recognition tools to law enforcement agencies across the US.
“I don’t think Amazon leadership addressed the concerns brought up inside question, along with I don’t think a Q&A session at an all-hands meeting will be enough or suitable for addressing the concerns appropriately,” an Amazon employee, who requested anonymity, told BuzzFeed News in an email. “There will be no way to hold leadership responsible in comparison to, say, a letter or email coming from HR to all employees where a statement will be written along with more concrete.”
Within the company, the Amazon employee said, workers were disappointed. “This particular’s hard to trust in which harm along with abuse can be prevented if This particular will be only post-mortem along with through the Terms of Service,” they said in their email.
After the American Civil Liberties Union reported in May in which Amazon had been pitching Rekognition to law enforcement agencies to surveil citizens, the backlash was swift. In October, an anonymous Amazon staffer said in a Medium post in which over 450 employees had written a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos demanding Amazon stop selling facial recognition software to police. The Daily Beast reported in which the company met with ICE This particular past summer to try to sell the government agency its Rekognition tools. Rekognition will be currently in use in Oregon’s Washington County along with the city of Orlando — where a BuzzFeed News investigation showed in which the pilot was a mess, with both Amazon along with city officials presenting confusing along with contradictory information about the initiative to the public.
Amazon employees along with civil liberties groups aren’t the only ones who have concerns about Rekognition. Natasha Lamb, a managing partner of Arjuna Capital — one of the Amazon shareholders who signed a letter regarding Rekognition addressed to Bezos — told BuzzFeed News in an interview in which the investment firm was concerned about the efficacy of Amazon’s facial recognition tools, based on the testing so far in which its accuracy has been flawed. “The rollout of the product appears short-sighted,” Lamb said. “The long-term concerns around civil liberties aren’t being considered.”
“along with coming from an investor perspective, we are concerned about the fallout,” she said, “along with the impact of [This particular issue] on Amazon’s brand.”
Read the Q&A with employees at Amazon’s all-hands meeting below:
Q: What will be being done in response to the concerns voiced by both Amazon employees along with civil rights groups regarding Amazon selling facial recognition technology to government along with police organizations, including ICE?
Jeff Bezos: not bad. Andy, do you want to take in which one?
Andy Jassy: Thank you, so we’re referring to Amazon Rekognition, which will be AWS’ deep learning image recognition, facial recognition, video recognition service along with, you know, with over 5 hundred thousand employees like we have at Amazon, I think we’re going to have people who have opinions in which are very wide-ranging, which will be great. yet we feel genuinely great along with genuinely strongly about the value in which Amazon Rekognition will be providing our customers of all sizes along with all types of industries in law enforcement along with out of law enforcement.
You see This particular inside value people are actually getting even after just about a year, year along having a half of the service, where Rekognition will be actively been used to help stop human trafficking, to reunite missing kids with parents for educational applications, for security along with multi-factor authentication.
There’s a lot of value being enjoyed coming from Amazon Rekognition. right now right now, of course, with any kind of technology, you have to make sure in which This particular’s being used responsibly, along with in which’s true with brand-new along with existing technology. Just think about all the evil in which could be done with computers or servers along with has been done, along with you think about what a different place our world might be if we didn’t allow people to have computers.
So you don’t want to get rid of in which technology. You want to make sure in which people use the technology responsibly, along with we have a set of terms along with services in AWS. along with with all our services, including Rekognition, where if people violate those terms of services along with don’t use them responsibly, they won’t be able to use our services any longer. In fact, if we find the people are violating folks constitutional rights, they won’t be able to use the services. I also think, by the way, in a democracy will be also often the role along with the responsibilities of the government to help specify what the guidelines along with regulations should be about technology. along with, if along with when in which happens, we will abide by those as well. Thank you.