Amazon puts one-year moratorium on Rekognition facial recognition technology for police use

Amazon's bet is that the one-year moratorium will give Congress enough time to put a regulatory structure in place for the technology.

Amazon said it will implement a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology Rekognition.

The move comes after IBM said it won't offer general purpose facial recognition technology in fear it could promote racial discrimination and injustice. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna also said in a letter to Congress that there needed to be a national dialogue on how facial recognition technology should be deployed by law enforcement agencies.

Facial recognition technology in law enforcement has been a much debated topic, but has been brought to the fore amid Black Lives Matter protests. A handful of cities in the US have already banned the use of facial recognition technology. Last year, San FranciscoOakland, and San Diego were among some of those cities that banned facial recognition technology, citing that the technology has limitations and a lack of standard around its use, and also promotes potential bias against minorities. 

For its part, Amazon said it will allow organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use Rekognition "to help rescue human trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families."

Amazon said its hope is that the one-year moratorium on police use of facial recognition technology will be enough time for regulations to govern ethical usage to emerge.

The company said:

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.