After widespread criticism of Amazon Web Services’ decision to sell cloud-based facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, CEO Andy Jassy said Monday evening that he is open to federal regulation regarding use of the controversial technology.
Speaking at the Code Conference in Arizona, Jassy said that he was open to regulation forcing law enforcement agencies to use a very high confidence level when employing facial recognition technology in investigations. Microsoft has called for similar regulation to ensure that law enforcement agencies are properly using facial-recognition technology, which can produce a lot of false positives and which has been criticized for poor results when analyzing the faces of people of color.
Amazon Cloud boss Andy Jassy recommends that the government put restraints in place that police forces only use facial recognition results when system has 99% confidence and then only as one element of a human led decision #CodeCon
— Jillian D'Onfro (@jillianiles) June 11, 2019
A live stream of Jassy’s comments Monday evening was not available, but several reporters on site as well as Recode’s official Twitter account confirmed that Jassy expressed support for potential regulation. “I strongly believe that just (because) technology could be misused, doesn’t mean we should ban it and condemn it,” he said, according to CNN’s Sara O’Brien, but also suggested that regulators need to make sure that human review is an important part of using facial-recognition technology in law enforcement.
.@ajassy on facial recognition: I understand why people worry about it. We have clear guidance to customers who may use it in such a way that it contrasts civil liberties. If you want more protection, which I think is reasonable, the government should regulate it. #CodeCon
— Recode (@Recode) June 11, 2019
AWS has defended sales of Rekognition, a cloud service that provides facial recognition technology for both still pictures and video, to law enforcement agencies such as the city of Orlando, Fla., and in Oregon’s Washington Country, which includes several suburbs of Portland. Law enforcement agencies have been using facial recognition technology for years, but the ease at which technologies like Rekognition can be implemented amid growing concern about the power of surveillance technology since 2016 has generated a decent amount of blowback, including from some Amazon employees.
Update 6/11: Recode released the full video of Jassy’s appearance: