Amazon Facing Calls From Civil Rights Groups To Permanently Ban Police Use Of Facial Recognition As Deadline Approaches

Amazon

Civil rights groups are calling on Amazon to permanently ban use of its facial recognition software, as an approaching deadline looms on the future of the technology.

In an open letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and incoming CEO Andy Jassy, 44 civil rights groups pointed to ongoing instances of police violence against the Black community as evidence that Amazon should stop selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement. “As a company, Amazon has a choice to make: Will you continue to profit from selling surveillance technology to law enforcement? Or will you stand for Black lives and divest from giving law enforcement these harmful tools?” said the letter, which was published Monday.

After national protests that followed the death of George Floyd last year, Amazon followed Microsoft and IBM in stopping the sale of its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. However, unlike IBM, which abandoned its program, and Microsoft, which indefinitely suspended police use of its facial recognition until a federal law is introduced, Amazon opted to impose a one-year ban to  “give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules” to govern the use of the technology.

While some cities have imposed bans on facial recognition technology being used by police departments, the technology isn’t regulated by federal authorities. Amazon has yet to say whether it will continue its moratorium after it expires next month, or lift the ban and sell the technology to law enforcement.

“They did share that they are committed to standing with the Black community and standing for racial justice,” says Jennifer Lee, technology and liberty project manager at the ACLU in Washington State, where Amazon is headquartered. “If they’re going to do that they need to permanently divest from selling facial recognition technology and cease involvement with police and law enforcement.”

Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment. However, the Seattle-based giant is pushing against shareholder calls for more transparency around the use of its facial recognition software, called Rekognition.

Ahead of the company’s annual general meeting on May 26, one shareholder proposal is calling for an independent third-party audit on the risks linked with government use of Rekognition, citing calls of more than 70 civil rights organizations to stop selling the technology, who said it contributed to “government surveillance infrastructure.” Another shareholder proposal is calling for an independent report on how Amazon conducts due diligence on its customers, including law enforcement agencies that use Rekognition.

In a proxy memo filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon said that it has “conscientiously acted to review and address the concerns expressed in the proposal and transparently provided information regarding our actions to the public” and that it is actively engaged in policy debates around facial recognition regulation.

Amazon introduced Rekognition, a cloud-based technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify people and objects in photos and video, in 2016. But the technology became a lightning rod for civil rights groups and anti-surveillance advocates after researchers at MIT found it identified gender of certain ethnicities less accurately than similar products made by Microsoft and IBM.

(Amazon said the MIT findings were “misleading and drawing on false conclusions” and asserted that its own tests had found no such inaccuracies.) After it was revealed the company pitched the software to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, hundreds of Amazon employees sent an internal letter to CEO Jeff Bezos stating that they “refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights.”

The heightened awareness around racial equality and concerns about police surveillance are making such shareholder proposals harder to ignore for institutional investors. Glass Lewis, a proxy advisory firm, issued a report last week recommending investors vote in favor of both shareholder proposals about Rekognition, given the previous controversies linked to the software, and the fact that no federal regulations appear set to pass before the moratorium passes.

“We have to draft these proposals in a way to get them on the ballot, so we go with a softer approach,” says Brianna Harrington, shareholder Advocacy Coordinator at Harrington Investments, which is bringing the proposal calling for an audit of risks linked to government use of Rekognition. “In a perfect world they’d stop selling the technology.”

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I’m a staff reporter at Forbes covering tech companies. I previously reported for The Real Deal, where I covered WeWork, real estate tech startups and commercial real estate. As a freelancer, I’ve also written for The New York Times, Associated Press and other outlets. I’m a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where I was a Toni Stabile Investigative Fellow. Before arriving in the U.S., I was a police reporter in Australia. Follow me on Twitter at @davidjeans2 and email me at djeans@forbes.com

Source: Amazon Facing Calls From Civil Rights Groups To Permanently Ban Police Use Of Facial Recognition As Deadline Approaches

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In July 2018, the A.C.L.U. ran a study that it said matched the headshots of 28 members of Congress to mugshots of known criminals. A secondary test performed by the M.I.T. Media Lab in January 2019 and reported by The New York Times found that Recognition had a hard time identifying female faces and the faces of dark-skinned individuals. Representatives from Amazon, however, pushed back against those claims, saying both the A.C.L.U. and M.I.T. Media Lab studies didn’t use the Recognition technology properly.

The company also issued a lengthy response statement on how it uses Recognition. Lawmakers and other tech companies, though, are calling for greater oversight over the technology. The response to facial recognition Ahead of Amazon’s shareholders meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement groups, while Massachusetts currently has a bill seeking to put a moratorium on the tech in committee.

Microsoft (MSFT) President Brad Smith has said that his company rejected the sale of its own facial recognition technology to a police department out of fear that it would disproportionately impact women and minorities. Smith said that the technology had primarily been trained with white males, and, as a result, wouldn’t have been accurate. The company also denied the sale of its tech to a foreign country. Google (GOOG, GOOGL), meanwhile, has chosen not to sell its technology at all. For more on Yahoo Finance’s and Dan Howley’s coverage of this story please click: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon…

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US Lawmakers Are Realizing They Can’t Ban Bitcoin

Those who have been longtime critics of Bitcoin usually have one key theory in common, which is that governments will eventually ban Bitcoin and cryptocurrency will then cease to exist in any meaningful form. For examples of this point of view, just look at economist Nouriel Roubini and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

That said, implementing such a ban is no easy task. After all, Bitcoin was built by cypherpunks as a form of digital money that would be unaffected by the desires of politicians and regulators around the world.

Lately, it appears that lawmakers in the United States are starting to realize the difficulties associated with a potential Bitcoin ban.

Bitcoin Ban Deemed Unlikely During Congressional Hearings

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology regulation. During that hearing, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) shared his belief that the United States would not be able to succeed in banning Bitcoin.

“If the United States were to decide — and I’m not saying that it should — if the United States were to decide we don’t want cryptocurrency to happen in the United States and tried to ban it, I’m pretty confident we couldn’t succeed in doing that because this is a global innovation,” said Crapo.

This statement came in the form of a question to Jeremy Allaire, who is the co-founder and CEO of global financial services company Circle. In his response, Allaire explained the new reality created by the creation of Bitcoin.

“I think the challenge that we all face with this is some of these cryptocurrencies — they’re literally just a piece of open-source software,” said Allaire. “There’s nothing else. It exists on the internet, it’s open-source software, anyone can implement it, it runs wherever the internet runs, and these have a monetary policy where these assets are algorithmically generated . . . That is a challenge that every government in the world now faces — that money, digital money, will move frictionlessly everywhere in the world at the speed of the internet.”

These remarks made during Tuesday’s hearing follow comments made by U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) from earlier in the month when he stated “there’s no capacity to kill Bitcoin” during an interview with CNBC.

Back in May, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) claimed that Congress should implement a ban on Bitcoin, but Sherman did not share specific details as to how such a ban could be effectively achieved.

                                

The difficulties associated with implementing a ban on Bitcoin are behind one economist’s theory that the best way to kill the cryptocurrency would be for governments to become more competitive in terms of monetary policy and financial freedom.

Abra CEO Bill Barhydt has also pointed out that bringing forth a Bitcoin ban could be legally difficult for the U.S. Government. That said, there is growing support for bans on encryption-based technologies among various law enforcement agencies in the United States, in addition to the Trump White House.

On the other hand, more centralized cryptocurrency systems like Facebook’s Libra project, which is really a cryptocurrency in name only, would be much easier for governments to control.

It should be noted that extreme limitations on technology and financial freedom, such as the new cash-related bill making its way through the Parliament of Australia, may end up unintentionally educating more people as to why Bitcoin has value in the first place.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m a writer who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. I’ve worked all over the Bitcoin media space — from being editor-in-chief at Inside Bitcoins to contributing to Bitcoin Magazine on a regular basis. My work has also been featured in Business Insider, VICE Motherboard, and many other financial and tech media outlets. I’m mostly interested in the use of Bitcoin for transactions that would be censored by the traditional financial system (think darknet markets and ransomware) in addition to the use of bitcoin as an unseizable, digital store of value. Altcoins, appcoins, and ICOs don’t make much sense to me. Find all of my work at kyletorpey.com. Disclosure: I hold some bitcoin.

Source: US Lawmakers Are Realizing They Can’t Ban Bitcoin

This Guy Tried To Ban Gay People From Entering His Store And It Backfired Hilariously – Rugile

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When it comes to stating your opinion, there’s nothing like a big sign to perfectly convey your stance one topic or another. Jeff Amyx, a hardware store owner from Tennessee, displayed his stance on homosexuality by declaring gay people were not welcome in his store. The whole story began in 2015 when Amyx decided to put-up a sign that said ‘No gays allowed’ on his hardware store door. The store owner didn’t stop at the sign but chose to also sell homophobic merchandise…..

Read more: https://www.boredpanda.com/no-gays-allowed-sign-store-yelp-tennessee/?utm_source=mix&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic

 

 

 

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