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Dems Face Off With Amazon Over Facial Recognition

Democrats from the House and Senate are not satisfied with Amazon's answers about its Rekognition facial recognition technology.

In a letter to company CEO Jeff Bezos, Sen. Edward Markey (Mass.) and Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.), John Lewis (Ga.), Judy Chu (Calif.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) said that despite asking back in July for info on the technology, "your company has failed to provide sufficient answers."

They are particularly concerned about accuracy issues, "disproportionate burdens on communities of color," and the impact on First Amendment rights in public.

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Particularly, they say, because of pilot programs in which the Rekognition technology is being marketed to law enforcement, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with raw video collected of crowds and transferred to Amazon servers for analysis.

The legislators say those pilot programs don't have the necessary policy guidelines and reportedly lacked hands-on training for law enforcement.

They want a bunch of answers from Bezos, including whether Amazon has done bias assessments, whether there are privacy protections, whether it audits government use to prevent abuse for "secretive government surveillance" or potential civil rights violations, and whether the software complies with Amazon's own terms of use.