Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Amazon defeated shareholder’s vote on facial recognition by a wide margin

Efforts by shareholders to instruct Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition technology to government customers failed by a wide margin, according to a new corporate filing with regulators.


About 2.4% of shareholders voted for the proposal, a fraction of the 50% necessary to pass. The measure needed to reach a 5% threshold for it to be re-introduced to shareholders again.


A second proposal to ask Amazon to carry out an independent human rights assessment of its facial recognition technology also failed. About 27.5% of shareholders voted in favor of the proposal.


Amazon has come under fire for its facial recognition tech, Rekognition following accusations of bias and that it’s inaccurate, which critics say can be used to racially discriminate against minorities.


The ACLU first raised “profound” concerns with Rekognition last year after it was installed at airports, public places and by police. The company has also pitched the product to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Although there was growing support from civil liberties groups like the ACLU, as well as the public, senior Amazon staff have a majority stake and voting rights — making any dissent from outside shareholders difficult. Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos retains 12% of the company’s stock. The company’s top four institutional shareholders collectively hold about the same amount of voting rights as Bezos.


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