REPS. KEITH ELLISON, D-Minn., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday morning, demanding answers about how the tech giant’s facial recognition technology is being used by law enforcement agencies around the country.
The letter, provided to The Intercept ahead of its public release, lists a total of 12 requests for information regarding Amazon’s facial recognition service, branded as “Rekognition,” including the names of any law enforcement or government agencies that use the system and data on how the service could enable, or itself engage in, discrimination, including racial and gender bias.
“The disproportionally high arrest rates for members of the black community make the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement problematic,” the letter reads, “because it could serve to reinforce this trend.”
According to an Ellison aide, the letter is an attempt to enact at least a baseline level of congressional oversight for the tech giant — an attempt that comes less than two months after congressional hearings that tried to do the same for Facebook.
Amazon came under fire earlier this week after the American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates, as well as 35 other civil liberties organizations, released a public letter expressing concerns about how Amazon markets its technology to law enforcement agencies. The ACLU letter coincided with the release of a trove of documents, which the organization obtained through public records requests and after a six-month investigation, that shed light on the company’s relationship and correspondence with law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Florida.
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