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Amazon Shareholders To Vote On Facial 'Rekognition' System


Amazon Inc.'s (AMZN) shareholders are set to vote on two proposals related to the company's facial recognition system, Amazon Rekognition, at its annual general meeting in Seattle on Wednesday.

Shareholders will first vote on whether the company should prohibit sales of Amazon Rekognition to government agencies.

They will also vote on whether Amazon should commission an independent study to examine whether the facial recognition technology threatens civil and privacy rights.

However, the two proposals are non-binding, meaning the company is not required to take action based on the outcome of the vote. Amazon had attempted to block the votes, but was informed by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it does not have the right to do so.

Amazon has told the SEC it is not aware of any reported misuse of Rekognition by law enforcement customers. The company also said the potential risks and implications of selling facial recognition technology to governments and law enforcement have minimal impact on the company and are not otherwise significant to its business.

Amazon Rekognition has been used by several law enforcement agencies. Amazon employees and civil liberties organizations have criticized the company for providing the software to police departments, saying that the facial recognition software could be used to violate human rights.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU and other privacy activists urged Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition software to police departments. The privacy activists claimed that the "technology poses a grave threat to customers and communities across the country."

Amazon claims that Rekognition can identify people in real-time by instantaneously searching databases containing tens of millions of faces.

Amazon offers a "person tracking" feature that it says "makes investigation and monitoring of individuals easy and accurate" for "surveillance applications."

According to the company, Rekognition can be used to identify "all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports" - at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

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