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Amazon pitched facial recognition tech to ICE after employees

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Recently uncovered documents show that Amazon was actively pitching its facial recognition technology to ICE.
Recently uncovered documents show that Amazon was actively pitching its facial recognition technology to ICE.

Image: Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Amazon would really like U.S. law enforcement to use its facial-recognition software, despite how its employees feel.

According to internal documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, Amazon met with officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the summer in order to pitch facial-recognition technology known as Rekognition.

In June 2018, Amazon Web Services sales representatives met with ICE officials to discuss the government agency’s use of the face-scanning technology. In an email to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations that followed, Amazon sent “action items” which included “Rekognition Video tagging/analysis, scalability, custom object libraries.” The Amazon sales representative went on to thank the agency for its interest in using the company’s technology “to support ICE and the HSI mission.”

Amazon had previously come under fire for its facial-recognition technology just one month prior to Amazon’s meeting with ICE officials. In May, the ACLU obtained documents showing that the online retailer provided law enforcement in Oregon and Orlando with the tech. 

At the time, some Amazon workers objected to the company’s technology being used to aid law enforcement in this capacity and urged Amazon to cancel the contracts. Despite this, Amazon would go on to court ICE just weeks later.

“ICE should not be using face recognition for immigration enforcement,” ACLU senior legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani told Mashable. “Congress has never authorized such use and it would be irresponsible to allow this technology to be used to support ICE’s ongoing efforts aimed at terrorizing immigrant communities throughout the country. The public deserves to know whether the agency is deploying or planning to deploy this technology.”

As The Daily Beast points out, just this past week during an interview with Wired, Jeff Bezos spoke of current immigration enforcement carried out with ICE. When discussing the migrants, Bezos said “I’d let them in if it was me. I like ’em. I want all of them in.”

Representatives for Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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