Amazon’s leaked internal emails reveal that employees of its Web Services cloud-computing unit met with the federal agency in California to present its AI tools, this summer. The emails obtained by the Project on Government Oversights were first published in The Daily Beast.
It is reported that officials from the U.S. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Amazon Web Services talked about implementing the tech company’s Rekognition face-scanning technology to assist with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI is primarily concerned with custom violations and plays no part in the Enforcement and Removal Operations division that initiates deportation. However, it shares many resources with that division.
Amazon’s Rekognition can identify people from surveillance footage using image databases. The AI software enables law enforcement to track individuals from cameras in public places. The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the use of technology as a “threat to civil rights” when implemented by police departments in Oregon and Florida.
ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said that the agency has no current contracts with Amazon, and it regularly meets with vendors to learn more about the tools they are offering. The agency "may use various investigative techniques and technological tools to… protect the country from cross-border crimes and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety,” he added.
Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said earlier this month that his company will “continue to support” the U.S. Defense Department, drawing a contrast with Google, which backed out of a number of government and military contracts after internal and public outcry opposing it.