Controversial Meeting Between Amazon and Immigration Officials

This summer, Amazon met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to talk about the potential use of ‘Rekognition’, its real-time surveillance facial recognition technology, a report from the Daily Beast and Project on Government Oversight documents have revealed. According to the Daily Beast, there are concerns that ICE could use the technology around sensitive locations, such as houses of worship and medical facilities, which the current administration has sometimes targeted despite official policy discouraging the practice.

The report also points out that several different studies, including one carried out by the American Civil Liberties Union, show that the Rekognition software, which scans faces in video feeds to try to identify individuals in real-time, is flawed, often providing misidentifications, and disproportionately so for people of color.

The meeting between Amazon Web Place and Immigration and Customs Enforcement took place in June at Redwood City’s McKinsey & Company offices in California, the report states. ICE had a management contract with McKinsey, which ended in the summer. Previous reports did not show the consulting firm had indicated that the agency should use the new facial recognition technologies.

The report quotes a former ICE official who fears that immigration officials could abuse the technology to make arrests rather than using it as the first step in making identifications, which is the intended purpose claimed by Amazon. ICE says it currently has no contracts for the technology with Amazon.