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Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition software for year

Amazon banning use of facial recognition software
Amazon banning police use of facial recognition software 00:34

Amazon said Wednesday that it will pause police use of its facial recognition technology for a year.

The company did not offer specifics in its announcement, nor give a reason. However, civil rights and immigration advocacy groups, as well as Amazon's own employees, have long criticized the company for selling the technology to government agencies.

Critics say Amazon's tools could be used to invade people's privacy and increase surveillance of people of color. Its facial-analysis system, called Rekognition, has made some high-profile errors, including categorizing Oprah Winfrey as male and wrongly matching headshots of 28 members of Congress with a mugshot database.

Protests after the death of George Floyd have focused attention on racial injustice in the U.S. and unequal treatment by police. Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed black man's neck for more than 8 minutes, even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air.

Racial Profiling 2.0 23:22

In announcing its decision, Amazon pointed the finger of responsibility at Congress, saying: "We've advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested."

Earlier this week, IBM said it would get out of the facial recognition business, citing how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling. Employees at Microsoft have also called for the company to drop its law-enforcement contracts.

Amazon said it will still allow organizations, like the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to use the technology.

- CBS News' Irina Ivanova contributed reporting.

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