Congressman Jimmy Gomez sent a letter to Amazon Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting the company be more transparent regarding the implementation and scope of their one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology, marketed as “Rekognition.” In addition to seeking specific information on the moratorium, Congressman Gomez also resubmitted a list of questions his office has been asking the company over the course of nearly two years on public safety and civil rights concerns associated with their facial recognition technology in the hands of law enforcement agencies – questions that have largely gone ignored or woefully unaddressed.
“Corporations have been quick to share expressions of support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the public outrage over the murders of Black Americans like George Floyd at the hands of police,” said Congressman Gomez in the letter. “Unfortunately, too many of these gestures have been performative at best. Calling on Congress to regulate facial recognition technology is one of these gestures. However, Amazon – as a global leader in technology and innovation – has a unique opportunity before them to put substantive action behind their sentiments of ‘solidarity with the Black community’ by not selling a flawed product to police, and instead, play a critical role in ending systemic racism in our nation’s criminal justice system.”
In the letter, Congressman Gomez expressed his concern regarding the ambiguity of Amazon’s announcement, raising the following questions about the moratorium:
- Will Amazon stop selling Rekognition to police departments during the moratorium?
- Will the moratorium apply to current contracts with law enforcement agencies?
- Will Amazon stop the development of its facial recognition system during the moratorium?
- Will the moratorium encompass both local and federal law enforcement agencies beyond the police, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?
- Will Amazon submit their technology to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for testing prior to resuming operations?
- How will Amazon proceed in the event federal legislation is not signed into law within this self-imposed timeframe?
In letters sent to Amazon on July 27, 2018, and November 29, 2018, Congressman Gomez and his congressional colleagues conveyed their alarm about the efficacy and constitutional impact of Rekognition on communities of color. To date, the company has failed to provide sufficient answers to their specific requests on this subject.
A copy of Congressman Gomez’s bipartisan letter to Amazon – sent on July 27, 2018 – with Reps. John Lewis (GA-05) and Rep. Tom Garrett (VA-05) – can be found HERE.
A copy of Congressman Gomez’s bicameral letter to Amazon – sent on November 29, 2018 – with Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04), John Lewis (GA-05), Judy Chu (CA-27), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) can be found HERE.
Full text of the letter regarding Amazon’s one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology can be found below, and a PDF can be found HERE.