The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Evan Greer, (508) 474-5248,

Amazon's Facial Recognition "Moratorium" Is a Public Relations Stunt. Lawmakers Should Ban this Dangerous Surveillance Tech.


Amazon just announced that they will place a one year moratorium on selling their invasive, racially biased facial recognition surveillance software to police. The announcement comes on the heels of one from IBM, who announced plans to get out of the facial recognition business entirely, and questioned whether artificial intelligence powered surveillance should be allowed at all.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future, who have led a coalition of dozens of organizations calling for an outright ban on facial recognition surveillance, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to Deputy Director Evan Greer (she/her):

"This is nothing more than a public relations stunt from Amazon. But it's also a sign that facial recognition is increasingly politically toxic, which is a result of the incredible organizing happening on the ground right now.

Amazon knows that facial recognition software is dangerous. They know it's the perfect tool for tyranny. They know it's racist--and that in the hands of police it will simply exacerbate systemic discrimination in our criminal justice system.

The last sentence of Amazon's statement is telling. They "stand ready to help if requested." They've been calling for the Federal government to "regulate" facial recognition, because they want their corporate lawyers to help write the legislation, to ensure that it's friendly to their surveillance capitalist business model. It's likely Congress will impose some limitations on police use of facial recognition soon. Amazon wants to pretend it was their idea all along. They'll spend the next year "improving" the accuracy of their facial recognition algorithms, making it even more effective as an Orwellian surveillance tool. Then they'll unleash their army of lobbyists to push for industry-friendly "regulations" that assuage public concern while allowing them to profit.

We also know that Amazon has marketed their face surveillance technology to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and their statement doesn't say whether this moratorium will apply to other government agencies that routinely violate human rights. Amazon's Ring surveillance doorbell company still maintains more than 1,000 surveillance partnerships with police departments across the country, enabling automated racial profiling and surveillance of entire neighborhoods.

The reality is that facial recognition technology is too dangerous to be used at all. Like nuclear or biological weapons, it poses such a profound threat to the future of humanity that it should be banned outright. Lawmakers need to stop pandering to Big Tech companies and corrupt law enforcement agencies and do their jobs. Congress should act immediately to ban facial recognition for all surveillance purposes."

Fight for the Future has been leading a national campaign backed by dozens of other grassroots organizations calling for an outright ban on law enforcement and government use of facial recognition. In February, the group expanded its efforts to explicitly call for lawmakers to also ban private individuals, institutions, and corporations from using this technology in public places, for surveillance purposes, or without the subjects' knowledge and affirmative consent, such as unlocking a phone. Even seemingly innocuous uses of facial recognition, like speeding up lines or using your face as a form of payment, normalize the act of handing over sensitive biometric information and pose a serious threat to security and civil liberties.

Fight for the Future worked with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and other artists to lead a successful campaign to keep facial recognition technology out of US music festivals and live concerts. More than 40 of the worlds' largest festivals including Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW confirmed they won't use the tech at their events. The group then worked with Students for a Sensible Drug Policy to get more than 60 prominent colleges and universities to confirm they won't use facial recognition on campus. 150+ university faculty issued an open letter echoing student demands to ban the use of face surveillance on college campuses. Students across the country held a national day of action in March.

The group is currently supporting protesters with surveillance self-defense advice, pressuring local elected officials to shut down Amazon Ring's surveillance partnerships with police, running campaigns to oppose the reauthorization of FISA and Patriot Act surveillance authorities, calling on Zoom to offer end-to-end encryption to all users, and working to stop the EARN IT act, which threatens both end to end encryption and online freedom of expression. Follow us on Twitter @fightfortheftr.

Fight for the Future is a group of artists, engineers, activists, and technologists who have been behind the largest online protests in human history, channeling Internet outrage into political power to win public interest victories previously thought to be impossible. We fight for a future where technology liberates -- not oppresses -- us.

(508) 368-3026