Amazon employees hope to confront Jeff Bezos about law enforcement deals at an all-staff meeting
Amazon employees angered about the corporate’s business ties to law enforcement businesses are hoping to ramp up drive on control at the corporate’s all-staff meeting on Thursday.
A gaggle of corporate employees who signed an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos this summer time denouncing the corporate’s sale of facial reputation tool to the police, are encouraging their colleagues to publish questions at the subject in hopes of getting them addressed by way of Bezos or different most sensible Amazon executives.
For years, Amazon allowed employees to ask questions in particular person at those semi-annual gatherings, however the corporate has instituted a brand new coverage that calls for all questions to be submitted upfront of Thursday’s meeting. A spokesperson stated the alternate used to be designed to give each worker international an opportunity to ask questions — no longer simply those that can attend in Seattle. This is the primary Amazon all-staff meeting that might be livestreamed globally.
“We know that the questions are now pre-screened, but we think that if enough people submit questions, there is a greater chance we can hold leadership accountable,” an Amazon worker wrote to colleagues in an e-mail that used to be seen by way of Recode. “Write your own personal message, or copy/paste this one if you don’t have time: ‘Why is Amazon continuing to support ICE’s regime of deportation, and even offering to sell them facial recognition software?’”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to remark.
In the previous 12 months, Amazon has confronted controversy over some makes use of of its AI-powered facial reputation product, Rekognition. The generation has been advertised as a surveillance device that can be utilized to observe faces in crew footage, crowded occasions and public puts similar to airports, and run the ones pictures for suits in opposition to mugshot databases.
In June, masses of Amazon employees signed a letter — titled “We Won’t Build It” — asking Amazon to prevent promoting Rekognition to the police, mentioning “historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses.”
The crew additionally decried the corporate’s business courting with the information company Palantir, which does trade with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This summer time, Amazon additionally reportedly pitched its Rekognition generation immediately to the ICE, a couple of months after the federal immigration company began imposing President Trump’s arguable zero-tolerance family-separation border coverage, in accordance to public paperwork received by way of the Project on Government Oversight.
The ACLU prior to now raised considerations about Rekognition’s doable misuse for racial profiling after the group ran a take a look at and located that the tool incorrectly matched 28 individuals of Congress, figuring out them as different individuals who had been arrested for a criminal offense — and that the false suits disproportionately concerned other people of colour, together with six individuals of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The employee-led motion to prohibit Amazon’s trade with police and the ICE is a part of a broader “We Won’t Build It” motion by way of tech employees who’re tough to prevent what they really feel are morally questionable makes use of in their corporations’ tool. Employees at Microsoft, Salesforce and Google have taken in a similar fashion vocal positions up to now 12 months.
“Tech workers make a lot of money and have a lot of power in the job market, but scratch that surface and underneath there’s a huge amount of fear,” one Amazon worker wrote to Recode on Monday. “The indisputable fact that over 400 other people have signed the letter at Amazon, that Microsoft and Salesforce employees have taken motion as neatly, or even the 20,000 Googlers who walked out closing week over sexual harassment, presentations others who could also be pondering about talking up that once we stand in combination they are able to’t prevent us.”
Neither Bezos nor Amazon corporate executives have given a proper reaction to the employees who make up the “We Won’t Build It” crew. But Bezos defended his corporate’s protection contracts with the U.S. govt at a contemporary tech convention, whilst acknowledging the potential of misuse with any generation.
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” stated Bezos, talking at a Wired convention closing month, including that, “One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular.”