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Amazon has to let shareholders vote on government Rekognition ban, SEC says

Amazon has to let shareholders vote on government Rekognition ban, SEC says


Activist shareholders are pressing the proposals

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon will have to let shareholders vote on proposals to curb sales of its controversial facial recognition product, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a letter to the company this week.

Activist shareholders have pushed proposals that, if approved, would require Amazon to audit its Rekognition tool for potential civil rights concerns, and to stop selling the tool to government agencies until a civil rights review is completed.

Proposal asks Amazon to stop selling to government agencies

Open MIC, a group that helped organize the shareholder votes, announced that the SEC made the final ruling after Amazon requested that the agency let the company use a process to keep the proposals from a vote. The SEC said in a letter late last month that the company didn’t meet the standards for that process, and while Amazon appealed the decision, the agency held the ruling in another letter yesterday.

Open MIC said the proposals would now come up for consideration at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. While the proposals may still be a long shot to pass, they put further public pressure on Amazon’s sales of the tool, which has been used by some police departments in the United States. CEO Jeff Bezos has defended working with the US government, but some have raised concerns about potential bias in Rekognition.

Amazon has disputed those characterizations. The company declined to comment.

Rekognition has faced criticism, both from within Amazon and from some experts in artificial intelligence. Yesterday, a group of prominent researchers asked the company to stop government sales of the facial recognition tool, which they described as “flawed.”