Amazon shareholders reject facial recognition sales ban

Amazon shareholders voted Wednesday to reject proposals that would have limited the company’s ability to sell and market facial recognition technology that has drawn criticism from employees, politicians and civil liberties groups.

Shareholders considered two non-binding proposals on “Rekognition” technology. The first proposal sought to ban Amazon from selling facial recognition technology to government agencies unless company officials found that the sales wouldn’t infringe on civil liberties, while the second proposal called on Amazon to submit to an independent review regarding technology’s potentially harmful impact on citizen privacy and civil rights.

Exact voting tallies on the failed proposals were not immediately available. Amazon is set to release vote data later this week.

Amazon’s facial recognition technology has drawn widespread scrutiny and criticism in recent months, with rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union arguing that “Rekognition” delivers false matches and displays instances of racial bias. A group of employees called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to stop selling the technology to law enforcement agencies last June.

The votes failed even as members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee expressed bipartisan support on Wednesday for federal regulation of facial recognition technology. Congressional leaders have raised concerns about the technology’s potential threat to privacy, with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., calling for the implementation of guidelines before “it gets out of control,” the Washington Post reported.


Amazon’s board of directors opposed the proposals, and the company launched a failed bid to have the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission block the votes from ever taking place.