Rep. Jimmy Gomez Leads Bipartisan Letter to Jeff Bezos Expressing Civil Rights Concerns about Amazon Rekognition Facial Technology

Amazon Rekognition

Amazon Rekognition

Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) – joined by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) – led a bipartisan letter to Amazon Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting a meeting about Amazon’s new facial recognition technology, branded and sold as “Amazon Rekognition.”

The letter, signed by 25 Members of Congress, expressed deep concerns about the civil rights implications such technology can have on constituents after the ACLU released the results of its own Rekognition test where 28 members of Congress were misidentified as suspected criminals. Among the matches were Rep. Gomez, Rep. Lewis, and Rep. Garrett. According to the ACLU, 40 percent of Amazon Rekognition’s false matches were of people of color, despite the fact that they make up 20 percent of Congress.

“The potential for this technology to wreak havoc on people of color cannot be understated,” said Rep. Gomez. “Just one false identification in the field can cost our constituents their livelihoods, even their lives. It’s time for Mr. Bezos to recognize the role his company plays in this situation and to accept our bipartisan invitation to discuss these concerns and the impacts such technology can have on our constituents when put in the hands of law enforcement officials.”

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“The results of the ACLU’s test of Amazon’s Rekognition software are deeply troubling. As a society, we need technology to help resolve human problems, not to add to the mountain of injustices presently facing of people of color in this country,” said Rep. Lewis. “It is not enough for Amazon to advise users of a 20 percent failure rate in their software. Law enforcement should not use this technology until the onerous civil rights and civil liberties issues are confronted and accuracy is guaranteed. If industry wants to engage in the public sphere, it needs to make the public good, not profit, a top priority. American families should not be collateral damage on the road to technological innovation.”

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This technology isn’t ready for prime time, and the risks to American’s basic liberties outweigh the benefits,” said Rep. Garrett. “I’m proud to stand alongside the ACLU and other champions of due process and civil liberties opposing the hurried imposition of potentially harmful technologies. That is why today, I have joined with my Congressional colleagues in calling on Jeffrey Bezos and the developers of Amazon Rekognition to confer with advocates and experts on civil liberties prior to introducing this technology into the marketplace or delivering it to law enforcement.”

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“Members of both parties continue to sound the alarm about bias and accuracy issues with Amazon Rekognition technology,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani. “It is past time for Amazon to wake up and recognize that its product poses a grave threat to civil rights and civil liberties. The public demands action – not more excuses from the company that are aimed at hiding problems with the technology. Amazon should stop selling face surveillance to the government and Congress should issue a moratorium on law enforcement use until there can be a full debate on what – if any uses – are permissible.”

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Full PDF letter can be found here.

More Contacts:
Rep. Jimmy Gomez – Eric Harris – 202.515.1301 – Eric.Harris@mail.house.gov
Rep. John Lewis – Brenda Jones – 202.226.4673 – Brenda.Jones@mail.house.gov
Rep. Tom Garrett – Andrew Griffin – 202.225.4711 – Andrew.Griffin@mail.house.gov
ACLU – Abdullah Hasan – 646.905.8879 – ahasan@aclu.org

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For more information contact: S. Ali Zaidi – S.Ali.Zaidi@mail.house.gov