ACLU Statement on Extended Amazon Face Recognition Moratorium

May 18, 2021 4:00 pm

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SEATTLE — Amazon today announced it will indefinitely extend its moratorium on sales of face recognition technology to law enforcement. In June 2020, amidst nationwide protests against police violence, Amazon announced a one-year pause on its sale of the technology to police.

“The threats posed last year by police use of face recognition technology are identical today,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Face recognition technology fuels the over-policing of Black and Brown communities, and has already led to the false arrests and wrongful incarcerations of multiple Black men. We are glad that Amazon will extend its moratorium on law enforcement use of the company’s face recognition technology. Now, the Biden administration and legislatures across the country must further protect communities from the dangers of this technology by ending its use by law enforcement entirely, regardless which company is selling it.”

Amazon’s one-year moratorium on sales to police was set to expire on June 10, 2021. Last year’s announcement followed over two years of ACLU advocacy; in 2018, the ACLU and nearly 100 civil rights, religious, community-based, and labor organizations called on Amazon to stop selling its face recognition technology to government agencies. The next year, the coalition also called Microsoft and Google to stop providing the technology to governments. Last week, the ACLU joined MediaJustice’s efforts to mobilize activists around the issue.

The ACLU is leading a nationwide movement to defend privacy rights and civil liberties against the threat of face recognition surveillance. As part of ACLU-led campaigns, multiple jurisdictions have prohibited law enforcement use of face recognition technology, including San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, California; Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Easthampton, Northampton, Springfield, and Somerville, Massachusetts; New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; and the states of Virginia and Vermont. New York state also suspended use of face recognition in schools and California suspended its use with police-worn body cameras.

Most recently, the ACLU called on President Biden to impose a moratorium on the federal government’s use of the technology.

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