AMAZON.COM, INC. | Rekognition – Facial Recognition Technology at AMAZON.COM, INC.

AGM date
Previous AGM date
Proposal number
13
Resolution details
Company ticker
AMZN
Resolution ask
Report on or disclose
ESG theme
  • Social
ESG sub-theme
  • Human rights & inequality
Company sector
Consumer Discretionary
Company HQ country
United States
Resolved clause
Shareholders request the Board of Directors commission an independent study of Rekognition and report to shareholders regarding: • The extent to which such technology may endanger, threaten or violate privacy and/ or civil rights, and unfairly or disproportionately target or surveil people of color, immigrants and activists in the United States; • The extent to which such technologies may be marketed and sold to authoritarian or repressive governments, including those identified by the United States Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; • The potential loss of good will and other financial risks associated with these human rights issues; The report should be produced at reasonable expense, exclude proprietary or legally privileged information and be published no later than September 1st, 2022.

How other organisations have declared their voting intentions

Organisation name Declared voting intentions Rationale
EFG Asset Management For The company says that the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee has oversight over corporate social responsibility practices, including risks related to human rights and ethical business practices, as well as risks related to operations and engagements with customers, suppliers, and communities, but risks related to facial recognition technology are not specifically mentioned.

Amazon clearly prohibits using its services in an unlawful method in its Acceptable Use Policy. Despite the company's assertion that the responsibility for ethical use of facial recognition technology lies with the user, the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make clear that the service provider has responsibility to ensure that its technology is not used in instances likely to cause overall harm or in a way that contravenes international law and human rights. Amazon states that it supports and has suggested guidelines for developing governmental regulations around these technologies.

The company has established guidelines, and updated them in 2020, for customer use of facial recognition technology, specifically with reference to law enforcement agencies, including human review; a 99 percent confidence score; reliance on the technology as a starting point and not the sole determinant in taking action; transparent use of the technology and safeguards in place; and trained personnel using the technology. It has published additional resources for guidelines on using facial recognition for public safety cases, and in June 2020 announced a one-year moratorium on selling use of Rekognition to law enforcement, to give Congress time to develop regulations around the technology. The company has now indefinitely extended this moratorium. The board also states that Rekognition is an image analysis service, not a surveillance system.

Nonetheless, the company's promotion of its facial recognition software to ICE has raised concerns among its employees and the use of the service by law enforcement has caused alarm among some civil and human rights organizations. Amazon has come under scrutiny for its collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, particularly amid increased concern around police brutality and bias in policing, as critics claim that the use of facial recognition technology facilitates increased police surveillance, particularly of people of color.

Although Amazon has taken steps to provide its customers with guidelines on using its technological products and services, shareholders and the company are likely to benefit from an independent report on how the company's due diligence process determines whether customers' use of its products or services contributes to human rights violations. The company's decision to indefinitely extend its moratorium indicates that it acknowledges the potential risks associated with its technologies but does not explain what the company will do in the future, especially if Congress does not take steps to enact regulations. Therefore, support for this proposal is warranted.