U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) was joined by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Tom Garrett (R-Va.) in a bipartisan letter to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos requesting a meeting about Amazon’s new facial recognition technology, branded and sold as “Amazon Rekognition.”
The letter, signed by 25 members of Congress, expressed deep concerns about the civil rights implications such technology can have on constituents after the ACLU released the results of its own Rekognition test where 28 members of Congress were misidentified as suspected criminals. Among the matches were Gomez, Lewis and Garrett.
“The potential for this technology to wreak havoc on people of color cannot be understated,” Gomez said. “Just one false identification in the field can cost our constituents their livelihoods, even their lives. It’s time for Mr. Bezos to recognize the role his company plays in this situation and to accept our bipartisan invitation to discuss these concerns and the impacts such technology can have on our constituents when put in the hands of law enforcement officials.”
According to the ACLU, 40 percent of Rekognition’s false matches were of people of color, even though they make up only 20 percent of Congress.
“The results of the ACLU’s test of Amazon’s Rekognition software are deeply troubling. As a society, we need technology to help resolve human problems, not to add to the mountain of injustices presently facing of people of color in this country,” Lewis said. “It is not enough for Amazon to advise users of a 20 percent failure rate in their software. Law enforcement should not use this technology until the onerous civil rights and civil liberties issues are confronted and accuracy is guaranteed. If industry wants to engage in the public sphere, it needs to make the public good, not profit, a top priority. American families should not be collateral damage on the road to technological innovation.”
Garrett added that the technology “isn’t ready for prime time.”
Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU senior legislative counsel, said the technology “poses a grave threat to civil rights and civil liberties.”
“The public demands action – not more excuses from the company that are aimed at hiding problems with the technology,” she said.
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