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

Status
37.48% votes in favour
AGM date
Previous AGM date
Proposal number
23
Resolution details
Company ticker
AMZN
Resolution ask
Conduct due diligence, audit or risk/impact assessment
ESG theme
  • Social
ESG sub-theme
  • Digital rights
Type of vote
Shareholder proposal
Filer type
Shareholder
Company sector
Consumer Discretionary
Company HQ country
United States
Resolved clause
RESOLVED: 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 US;The extent to which such technologies may be marketed and sold to authoritarian or repressive governments, including those identified by the US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;The potential loss of goodwill and other financial risks associated with these human rights issues;The report should be produced at reasonable expense, exclude proprietary or legally privileged information, published no later than September 1st, 2023.  
Whereas clause
Amazon markets and sells facial recognition ("Rekognition”) to government that may pose significant financial risks due to privacy and human rights implications;
Human and civil rights organizations are concerned facial surveillance technology may violate civil rights by unfairly and disproportionately targeting and surveilling people of color, immigrants and civil society organizations;
Nearly 70 organizations asked Amazon to stop selling Rekognition, citing its role enabling “government surveillance infrastructure”;
The ACLU found Rekognition incorrectly identified 28 Congressional members as having been arrested for a crime, and falsely matched 1 in 5 California lawmakers. Research shows Rekognition is worse at identifying black women than white men and misgenders nonbinary people;
Reports indicate restricting facial recognition is a rising trend: 
Multiple cities and states have banned government facial technology. In 2022, the Facial Recognition Ban on Body Cameras Act was reintroduced in Congress.[1]UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged a moratorium on Artificial Intelligence (AI) until adequate safeguards exist, calling for a ban on AI inconsistent with international human rights law.[2]There is little evidence our Board of Directors, as part of its fiduciary oversight, has rigorously assessed risks to Amazon’s financial performance, reputation and shareholder value associated with privacy and human rights threats to all stakeholders;
For 4 years, similar Amazon proposals have received increasing shareholder support – in 2022, it received 40.69 per cent support.
Responding to the growing movement against police brutality and criminal justice bias, Amazon issued an indefinite moratorium on Rekognition used by police departments.
While this acknowledges risks, it is unclear whether it includes other government agencies. In 2021, the Government Accountability Office found 19 of 24 US government agencies surveyed were using facial recognition.[3] 
Microsoft banned face recognition sales to police awaiting federal regulation, then announced the removal of features from its AI service to ensure facial recognition technology meets ethical guidelines[4], while IBM stopped offering the software. Following a
$550 million settlement from a lawsuit alleging nonconsensual use of facial recognition, Facebook ceased using facial recognition.[5]
[1] https://beyer.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspxDocumentID=5619#:~:text=U.S.%20Representatives%20Don%20Beyer%20(D,on%20footage%20from%20body%20cameras.
[2] OHCHR | Artificial intelligence risks to privacy demand urgent action – Bachelet
[3] Facial Recognition Technology: Current and Planned Uses by Federal Agencies | U.S. GAO
[4] https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/responsible-ai-investments-and-safeguards-for-facialrecognition/
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/nov/03/why-is-facebook-shutting-down-its-facialrecognition-system-and-deleting-faceprints
 

How other organisations have declared their voting intentions

Organisation name Declared voting intentions Rationale
Dana Investment Advisors For
EFG Asset Management For A vote FOR this proposal is warranted. Shareholders would benefit from increased transparency and disclosure on
how the company is managing human rights-related risks.
Kutxabank Gestion SGIIC SAU. For
Anima Sgr For As shareholders would benefit from increased transparency and disclosure on how the company is managing human rights-related risks.
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.
VidaCaixa For
Rothschild & co Asset Management For
CANDRIAM For Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is being rapidly developed and deployed around the world. It is estimated that one billion surveillance cameras in operation around the world, all capable of feeding images into an FRT system. This comes with grave risks to our privacy and our freedom (e.g., freedom of movement, freedom of association). As regulation is by nature reactive and slow, it is essential that companies operating in this technology display impeccable ethics, great care, and a high level of transparency to ensure its safe use before strong regulation is implemented.

In June 2020, following the controversial use of FRT by police force on protesters during the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Amazon implemented a moratorium on use of their facial recognition product Rekognition to law enforcement agencies following the move of other large US tech firms. This decision was a de facto admission that the technology can cause serious harm to human rights and should be researched, developed, used and marketed with extreme care. Since, Facebook has scrapped their FRT functionality on their platform and Microsoft stopped all sales of FRT to police forces, both citing risks to society.

For these reasons we feel that it is crucial that Amazon conducts a rigorous assessment of risks linked to Rekognition in particular and to FRT in general.

A vote FOR is therefore warranted.

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