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Amazon shareholders vote down proposals on facial recognition and climate change

Amazon shareholders vote down proposals on facial recognition and climate change


Investors and employees pushed the company to make the changes

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon shareholders have voted down proposals meant to curb sales of the company’s controversial facial recognition tool and to limit its carbon output.

The proposals, which were driven by shareholding activists and employees, were nonbinding, but represented a moment of defiance against Amazon. The company’s Rekognition tool, which is sold to law enforcement, has been criticized on civil liberties grounds, and employees have said the company could be doing more to fight climate change.

Thousands of employees signed on to climate change proposal

Two Rekognition proposals would have asked Amazon to cease sales to government agencies and to complete a review of the tool’s civil liberties implications. Amazon went to the Securities Exchange Commission in an attempt to stop the proposals from coming to a vote, but the agency allowed them to continue. The measures had received support from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which pressed the shareholders to adopt the facial recognition proposals.

“The fact that there needed to be a vote on this is an embarrassment for Amazon’s leadership team,” Shankar Narayan of the ACLU of Washington said in a statement. “It demonstrates shareholders do not have confidence that company executives are properly understanding or addressing the civil and human rights impacts of its role in facilitating pervasive government surveillance.”

Amazon employees also rallied around the climate change proposal, which asked the company to adopt a wide-ranging plan. Thousands of employees signed on to an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos supporting the plan. “It’s past time for Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s board to listen,” Amazon organizers said in a statement read after the vote.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the proposals were voted down and said more details would be filed with the SEC and released later this week.

The shareholder meeting came on the same day as a congressional hearing on the use of facial recognition technology. “It’s just more important for Congress to act,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) said at the hearing, in response to the Amazon vote.