Amazon Shareholders Reject Facial-Recognition Proposals

A trio of shareholder proposals intended to force Amazon to rein in its facial-recognition technology and address climate change failed to secure enough votes, despite a vocal campaign from activist investors and employees.

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Company shareholders rejected the proposals on Wednesday. However, the vote breakdown won't be made public until Friday, according to attendees of the annual shareholders' meeting.

The proposals faced an uphill battle from the get-go. Amazon's board had recommended shareholders vote against them, and CEO Jeff Bezos —Amazon's single largest shareholder—also has voting control over 16 percent of the tech giant's stake.

In addition, the proposals were nonbinding, so Amazon's board had the power to ignore them. Nevertheless, the activists and employees behind the shareholder resolutions say they plan to fight on.

"Today's votes at Amazon on facial recognition lay the foundation for a broader, longer-term push by shareholders to establish accountability around dangerous surveillance technologies like (Amazon's) Rekognition," tweeted Open Mic, a group that helped organize one of the shareholder proposals. "Stay tuned, we're just beginning."

One of the proposals wanted Amazon to temporarily stop all sales of its facial-recognition system to government agencies, citing the dangers of unwarranted surveillance and potential abuse. A separate proposal asked Amazon's board to sponsor an independent study focused on evaluating facial-recognition technology's potential to endanger civil and human rights.

The third proposal came from a group of Amazon staffers who demanded that the company do more to stop climate change. The proposal, which was backed by 7,700 employees, specifically called on the tech giant to release a public plan to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

"Incremental steps are no longer acceptable in this time of climate emergency," said Amazon user interface designer Emily Cunningham at a rally held by company employees after the shareholder meeting.

Amazon's board argued that it has already invested the resources to act on climate change, and to prevent its facial-recognition technology from ever being abused. In February, the company also declared its support for US legislation to regulate facial-recognition technology. However, it stopped short of banning sales to police departments and government agencies, pointing to the technologies' potential to help investigators fight crime and find missing people.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.