Congress still wants answers from Amazon about its facial recognition tech

In a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, eight members of Congress expressed concern about Amazon's decision to make Rekognition available to law enforcement.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
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Eight Democratic members of Congress asked  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for more information about the company's  facial recognition software, which has already been used by some police forces.

In a letter dated Thursday, the lawmakers expressed concern that the Rekognition software wasn't yet accurate enough to be used by law enforcement. 

"Facial recognition technology may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials working to protect the American public and keep us safe," the members of Congress wrote. "However, at this time, we have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans' willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public."

The letter was written by US Reps. Jimmy Gomez, John Lewis, Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Judy Chu and Sen. Edward Markey. It follows two other letters written by members of Congress that requested an "immediate" meeting with Bezos after a test of Rekognition falsely matched the lawmakers with mugshots of criminals.

In Thursday's letter, the lawmakers expressed concern that Amazon is "actively marketing this product to law enforcement entities, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement." They cite reports that law enforcement officials are starting to use cameras to collect footage of bystanders and transfer the data to Amazon servers for facial recognition analysis. 

The politicians also say Amazon has "failed to provide sufficient answers" to the questions raised in the earlier letters. They renewed their inquiries about how Amazon tests for facial recognition accuracy, whether the results have been independently verified and how the company tests for bias in the facial recognition results. 

The members of Congress asked for answers by Dec. 13.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Here's the full letter: 

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