From the very start, there have been concerns about how facial recognition technology was being made available too easily to “the right people” with the privacy safeguards often provided by laws. Recent events in the US seem to have been the rude awakening that both companies and lawmakers needed to rise to the challenge of regulating the use of this potentially invasive technology. Since that will take time, however, tech companies like IBM and now Amazon is temporarily putting a stop to these technologies are at least in providing these tools to law enforcers.
AI and facial recognition are admittedly impressive tools few probably imagined would be possible just a few years ago. They can make life more convenient and, given the proper application, more secure but, just like any other tool, they can also be used to do sometimes irreparable damage. That’s why people have been clamoring for laws that would limit or at least penalize improper use of these technologies.
It is unfortunate that it would take nationwide protests to finally get that ball rolling but while the US Congress is still trying to figure out how to proceed, tech companies are taking matters into their own hands in the meantime. IBM has announced that it is ceasing its general-purpose AI product development and now Amazon is following suit with a slight twist.
What the e-commerce giant has announced is simply a moratorium on the police use of Rekognition, its cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform used for facial recognition. Although the announcement makes no mention of it, it is pretty much a stopgap measure to prevent the technology from being used to identify protesters or implement racial profiling.
Amazon isn’t pulling out completely from that market, though. It says it will continue providing its facial recognition tech to organizations that combat human trafficking and reunite missing persons with families. The moratorium isn’t indefinite either, as it hopes one year will be enough for Congress to get its act together.