Amazon Pushed ICE to Buy Rekognition Software
Amazon pitched ICE officials this summer as part of their continued attempts to get the immigration agency to buy its controversial facial recognition technology, Rekognition. Internal emails show that ICE and Amazon met on June 12th, in a McKinsey office in California, when the tech giant specifically pitched the Rekognition program and other Amazon services. The same official followed up a month later with a public link to a blog post that responded to privacy concerns raised by the ACLU. There’s no indication that ICE purchased Rekognition. However, advocates worry that giving ICE real-time facial recognition surveillance technology could not only increase the agency’s enforcement and deportation powers, but it could also make undocumented and documented immigrants afraid to seek out vital services. There is also an increased potential for error and mistaken identity, which could cause wrongful deportations. Research by the Government Accountability Office and the MIT Media Lab has shown that facial recognition technology is more likely to mistakenly identify people of color as targets -- a test misidentified people of color 39% of the time -- which can lead to wrongful arrests. In July, the facial recognition software sold by Amazon mistakenly identified 28 members of Congress as people who had been arrested for crimes. Congressmen John Lewis (D-GA) and Jimmy Gómez (D-CA) -- who were both misidentified in the test -- and other Members of Congress, including the Congressional Black Caucus, have sent letters to Amazon President and CEO Jeff Bezos expressing privacy and racial bias concerns about Rekognition and other similar software. Amazon employees have also been vocal in their opposition about possible collaborations with law enforcement. An AWS spokesperson told The Beat that: “We participated with a number of other technology companies in technology “boot camps” sponsored by McKinsey Company, where a number of technologies were discussed, including Rekognition. As we usually do, we followed up with customers who were interested in learning more about how to use our services (Immigration and Customs Enforcement was one of those organizations where there was follow-up discussion).” More here.