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Amazon to ban police using its facial recognition technology

Demonstrations since the death of black man George Floyd while under arrest have focused attention on how police use software to track people.

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Amazon will ban police use of its facial recognition technology for a year in order to give Congress time to come up with ways to regulate the technology (Gillian Flaccus/AP File)

Amazon will ban police use of its facial recognition technology for a year in order to give Congress time to come up with ways to regulate the technology (Gillian Flaccus/AP File)

Amazon will ban police use of its facial recognition technology for a year in order to give Congress time to come up with ways to regulate the technology (Gillian Flaccus/AP File)

Amazon will ban police use of its facial recognition software for a year to allow US lawmakers time to devise legislation to regulate the technology, the firm has said.

The Seattle-based company did not say why it was doing so, but ongoing protests after the death of George Floyd have focused attention on racial injustice and how police use technology to track people.

Amazon’s announcement comes a day after IBM said it would get out of the facial recognition business, concerned about how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

It was not clear if Amazon’s ban on police use includes federal law enforcement agencies, with the company not responding to questions about its announcement.

Civil rights groups and Amazon’s own employees have pushed the company to stop selling its technology, called Rekognition, to government agencies, saying that it could be used to invade privacy and target people of colour.

In a blog post, Amazon said that it hoped Congress would put in place stronger regulations for facial recognition.

Law enforcement agencies use facial recognition to identify suspects but critics say it can be misused.

A number of US cities have banned its use by police and other government agencies, led by San Francisco last year.

Earlier, Mr Floyd’s brother directly challenged politicians to step up over racial injustices.

Philonise Floyd told a House hearing: “The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough. Be the leaders that this country, this world, needs. Do the right thing.”

PA