Amazon, in a company-wide meeting on Thursday, addressed employees’ concerns over its relationship with law enforcement agencies. Most recent revelations talked about the company’s secret meetings with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to offer its facial recognition software to government agencies.
In a letter signed by at least 450 Amazonians, the employees voiced their concern that the facial recognition software would be used as a surveillance tool against citizens or can be used to harm marginalized groups and people.
At the meeting, AWS CEO Andrew Jassy largely dismissed employees’ concerns over the selling of its Rekognition software to government agencies and defended the company’s decision saying, “I think we're going to have people who have opinions that are very wide-ranging, which is great, but we feel really great and really strongly about the value that Amazon Rekognition is providing our customers of all sizes and all types of industries in law enforcement, and out of law enforcement.”
Amazon’s technology will not be used for “evil”, he added. Jassy highlighted on the company’s terms of service that mandates every user of its Rekognition software or other AWS services to use it “responsibly”. He also said that it was up to the government to set the guidelines for appropriate use of such technology.
The letter also urged on canceling AWS access privileges of Palantir – a secretive data-mining startup and also a technology provider to ICE. Amazon is joined by Google and several other big tech companies when it comes to facing a backlash from their own employees regarding the use of their products.