Amazon employees are protesting the sale of facial recognition software to government and law enforcement agencies by its employer. They also want Amazon to end its dealings with companies connected to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Amazon has faced previous criticism from civil rights groups, members of Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the ACLU, which first revealed the software, for its facial recognition service Amazon Web Services Rekognition.
In a letter addressed to CEO Jeff Bezos and obtained by The Hill, the group of employees stated, “This will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized.”
The employees expressed their demands in the letter: “We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights. As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used.”
They cited Palantir, a data analytics firm, which helps ICE on information to find and deport people, describing the deportation techniques as an “immoral U.S. policy” and “increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants,” according to The Hill.
The letter from Amazon employees also refers to children being separated from their unauthorized immigrant parents, which helped motivate them to protest.
Silicon Valley workers have been increasingly critical of work with government agencies.
More than 300 employees at Microsoft wanted to end cloud services to ICE, although a company spokesperson said the services were only for email and messaging. Employees at Google protested and even resigned when they learned Google was working with the Pentagon on tools for drone surveillance.
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