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Amazon Suspends Sales of (Facial) Rekognition Tech to Police

Amazon said it is putting a one-year moratorium on selling its Rekognition facial recognition technology to police, saying it wants to give Congress time to come up with a regulatory framework. (The story initially incorrectly attributed the moratorium to Facebook).

The company said it would still allow its use for rescuing victims of human trafficking and reuniting missing children by groups like the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Related: OTI Won't Take Facebook Funding

Some legislators have expressed concerns about the use of facial recognition software to stifle the free speech of protesters currently organizing to oppose racial injustice. 

"We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested," said the company. 

But one of Amazon's critics was not assuaged.  

“This is nothing more than a public relations stunt from Amazon," said Fight for the Future executive director Even Greer. "But it’s also a sign that facial recognition is increasingly politically toxic, which is a result of the incredible organizing happening on the ground right now." 

Greer said Amazon has been calling for government regulation of facial recognition so that its lawyers can write the legislation so it is verifying to their surveillance business model. 

"The reality is that facial recognition technology is too dangerous to be used at all," said Greer, likening it to nuclear or biological weapons in its potential threat. "Lawmakers need to stop pandering to Big Tech companies and corrupt law enforcement agencies and do their jobs," she said. "Congress should act immediately to ban facial recognition for all surveillance purposes.” 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.