Over 150,000 People Join Nationwide Campaign as Immigrants’ Rights, Racial Justice, and Civil Liberties Advocates Raise Privacy and Discrimination Concerns

June 18, 2018

SEATTLE – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Washington today will deliver to Amazon over 150,000 petition signatures, a coalition letter signed by nearly 70 organizations representing communities nationwide, and a letter from Amazon shareholders demanding the company stop providing face surveillance technology to governments, including local law enforcement. Representatives of community-based organizations, including CREDO and Demand Progress, will join the ACLU of Washington today at Amazon’s iconic Spheres headquarters building in Seattle to deliver the petition signatures and letters.

“The rights of immigrants, communities of color, protestors, and others will be put at risk if Amazon provides this powerful surveillance system to government agencies. Amazon should listen to community voices and protect its customers’ civil liberties instead of jumping in to create a surveillance infrastructure for government,” said Shankar Narayan, ACLU of Washington Technology and Liberty Director.

Today’s actions mark mounting pressure on Amazon to end its practice of selling its dragnet surveillance system, Rekognition, to local enforcement following the release of emails and other documents obtained by the ACLU revealing how the company has been pushing its face recognition product.

In their letter to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, shareholders add 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.”

In addition to today’s actions, the Congressional Black Caucus also wrote to Bezos, expressing concerns that the tool could have negative unintended consequences for people of color, including immigrants, and protesters.

“We cannot blindly stumble into an artificial intelligence-powered surveillance state overseen by corporations interested in expanding their profit margins and police departments committed to exercising limitless power,” said ACLU of Massachusetts’ Technology for Liberty Program director Kade Crockford in a blog post on today’s actions. “True public safety — especially for people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and dissidents — requires that we stop the spread of face surveillance before it’s too late.”

“The message sent to Amazon today by its shareholders, more than 150,000 consumers, and a nationwide coalition is loud and clear: If Amazon is indeed a customer-centric company that opposes secret government surveillance, it needs to stop selling dangerous face surveillance to the government that can be used to attack protesters, target immigrants, and spy on neighborhoods,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Director for the ACLU of California.

The coalition letter delivered today can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/letter-nationwide-coalition-amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-regarding-rekognition.

The Amazon shareholder letter can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/letter/letter-shareholders-amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-regarding-rekognition.

ACLU of Massachusetts’ Kade Crockford’s blog post is available here: https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/over-150000-people-tell-amazon-stop-selling-facial.

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