A week after San Francisco voted to ban city departments from buying and using facial recognition technology, Amazon on Wednesday will hold a vote of its own at its annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, where investors will weigh whether Amazon should sell the surveillance software to law enforcement and government agencies.
Some lawmakers and civil liberties groups have called the new technology a threat to privacy and civil rights.
ACLU attorney Matt Cagle is in that camp.
(SOUND BITE) TECHNOLOGY AND CIVIL LIBERTIES ATTORNEY OF ACLU NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, MATT CAGLE, SAYING: "Amazon has failed to recognize the dangers and to act on the dangers of its face surveillance technology, so shareholders have stepped up and they've brought two proposals to Amazon's annual shareholder meeting, asking the company to take responsibility before its bottom line and its reputation take a bigger hit." The first proposal shareholders will vote on asks the company to prohibit sales of its Amazon Rekognition product to government agencies.
The other asks Amazon to commission an independent audit to determine what harm, if any, the technology poses.
Reuters Correspondent Jeffrey Dastin is covering the shareholder meeting.
(SOUND BITE) REUTERS AMAZON CORRESPONDENT JEFFREY DASTIN, SAYING: "These shareholder resolutions face an uphill battle because Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns 16 percent of the company and, consequently, has a large chunk of the vote.
Even achieving 25 or 35 percent of a 'yes' vote from shareholders will be a major symbolic victory for civil liberty groups that have raised concerns about facial recognition technology and, possibly, given shareholder interest, the company might end up doing something different anyway, even if the resolutions themselves don't pass." Just before Amazon's annual meeting gets underway on Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on facial recognition technology and its impact on the public's right to privacy.