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Amazon shareholders to vote on selling facial recognition tech to government

They worry the controversial Rekognition technology is moving a bit too quickly.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
2 min read

Amazon's facial recognition tech has a few more hurdles to clear.


Amazon shareholders will vote next month on whether the company should sell its controversial facial recognition technology to governments.

The retail giant on Thursday said its annual shareholders meeting will be held on May 22. Among the items to be voted on is a shareholder proposal that would ban the sale of Amazon's Rekognition tech to government agencies unless "the board concludes, after an evaluation using independent evidence, that the technology does not cause or contribute to actual or potential violations of civil and human rights."

Civil liberties groups, members of Congress, Amazon employees and some shareholders have called on the company to stop selling its Reckognition software to government agencies. The program has been criticized for not being completely reliable and making mistakes with its matches. Concerns were raised last July when the American Civil Liberties Union said Reckognition software incorrectly identified 28 Congress members as criminals.

Amazon's board is recommending that shareholders vote against the proposal.

"In the two-plus years AWS has been offering Amazon Rekognition, AWS has not received a single report of Amazon Rekognition being used in the harmful manner posited in the proposal, but is aware of many beneficial purposes of Amazon Rekognition, including by law enforcement to help improve public safety," wrote Amazon's board of directors in proxy documents for the annual meeting. "We do not believe that the potential for customers to misuse results generated by Amazon Rekognition should prevent us from making that technology available to our customers."

The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Watch this: Facial recognition is going to be everywhere