Facial recognition system to ICE pitched by Amazon

Amazon has faced pushback, both internally and externally, for selling its Facial Recognition technology to law enforcement. Company’s own employee said it would “serve to harm the most marginalized”. Amazon employees met with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this summer as part of sustained attempt to sell the company’s controversial facial recognition technology. This was revealed by internal emails obtained by the Project on Government Oversights and first published in The Daily Beast. The company and ICE talked about implementing the company’s Rekognition face-scanning platform to assist with homeland security investigations.

In Detail about Facial Recognition

According to internal emails obtained through a FOIA request, Amazon Web Services representatives met with ICE officials on June 12th. An Amazon Web Services official who specializes in federal sales contracts, and whose name was redacted in the emails, wrote that the conversation involved “predictive analytics” and “Rekognition Video tagging/analysis” that could possibly allow ICE to identify people’s faces from afar – a type of technology immigration officials have voiced interest in for its potential enforcement use on the southern border.

“We are ready and willing to support the vital (Homeland Security Investigations) mission,” the Amazon official wrote.

Amazon has drawn criticism in recent months over its apparent efforts to sell facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies. Critics have questioned the effectiveness of the tools, as well as the technology’s potential applications. ICE, said in a statement that its homeland security investigations unit has used facial-recognition technology. ICE does not currently have a contract with Amazon. They use this technology to assist in “criminal investigations related to fraudulent activities, identity theft and child exploitation crimes.”


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More Information on Facial Recognition

Firstly, members of Congress questioned the company after what Amazon tried to offer to law enforcement groups. ACLU asked them and its own investors to drop Rekognition. Amazon employees also sent CEO Jeff Bezos a letter requesting that the company stop selling the technology to law enforcement. “We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights”.

An ICE representative said the agency “does not have a contract” with Amazon Web Services. Noting “it would be inappropriate” to comment on Rekognition technology given the lack of a formal arrangement. The agency went on to describe the meeting with Amazon as “fairly standard”. Unfortunately, they declined to say how many times it has met with Amazon officials.

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Vaibhav Tyagi

Vaibhav Tyagi

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