- Amazon employees have openly and publicly criticised the company for selling its facial recognition software, called Rekognition, to police.
- Amazon employees are urging their colleagues to ramp up the pressure on the company at an all-staff meeting Thursday by inundating CEO Jeff Bezos with questions about the company’s dealings with law enforcement, Recode reports.
- Since June, hundreds of Amazon employees have petitioned the company to stop sales of Rekognition and cut ties with Palantir, a company whose software is used by ICE for its deportation and tracking program.
At an all-staff meeting later this week, Amazon employees will reportedly take further steps to confront CEO Jeff Bezos over the company’s controversial practice of selling its facial recognition software to police and a company known to work with immigration authorities.
Recode reports that Amazon workers are planning to flood Amazon executives with enough questions about its dealings with law enforcement that leadership won’t be able to ignore the issue. The meeting, which will be livestreamed to employees globally, is scheduled for Thursday.
“We think that if enough people submit questions, there is a greater chance we can hold leadership accountable,” an Amazon employee wrote to colleagues in an email obtained by Recode.
This organised movement is being headed by a group of Amazon employees who have been outspoken in criticising the company’s artificial-intelligence software called Rekognition, according to internal emails obtained by Recode.
Amazon has described Rekognition as a facial recognition tool that can be used for such purposes as “preventing human trafficking” and “inhibiting child exploitation.” However, the ACLU revealed in May that Amazon had sold Rekognition to government and police agencies for the purpose of public surveillance and to identify “people of interest.”
Hundreds of employees have petitioned Bezos in the past to stop the practice. In a letter from June, workers demanded Amazon stop selling Rekognition to the police, and to take measures toward further accountability and transparency. Employees also urged the company to cut ties with Palantir, a data company that’s known to provide software to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for its deportation and tracking program.
Amazon isn’t the only company to see its employees protest its dealings with the US government. After workers at Google condemned their employer for participating in a government program called Project Maven, the company said in June it would not renew its contract with the military. Similar movements have taken place at other tech companies, like Microsoft and Salesforce.
Recode reports that Amazon has yet to issue a formal reply to employees who petitioned the company back in June. However, Bezos has defended the dealings of Amazon, and other tech companies, with federal authorities. At a conference last month, Bezos said Amazon would “continue to support” the US government.
“One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision even when it’s unpopular,” Bezos said. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defence, this country is going to be in trouble.”
The protest internally at Amazon comes a week after nearly 17,000 employees at Google staged a company-wide walkout to show their discontent with the tech giant’s history of sexual misconduct.