Krishnamoorthi seeks Ring promise on face recognition
06 July 2020 18:06 GMT

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to Amazon seeking a commitment that its subsidiary Ring Inc. will abide by Amazon’s announced moratorium on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology.

The letter also questioned what changes Ring will make to its concerning police surveillance partnerships and its Neighbors app, which has made it easier for private citizens to turn racial biases into interactions between police and people of color.

“As demonstrations occur across the country, more and more people are confronting the reality of racial injustice in policing.  No one can still claim ignorance of the fact that interactions with police are more dangerous for people of color, and police surveillance leads to more of these interactions,” Chairman Krishnamoorthi wrote.

Recently, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon all announced a moratorium on allowing police to use their facial recognition technologies in apparent solidarity with the national movement against police violence.  Ring has not announced that it will do the same.  

The Subcommittee is concerned that Amazon’s commitment to joining “the fight against systemic racism and injustice” is undermined by Ring’s continuing partnerships with law enforcement and the propagation of racism and fear that has spread on the Neighbors app, which allows users to upload videos recorded by Ring’s doorbell cameras and share them with police, amplifying users’ implicit biases. 
 

“The Subcommittee is concerned that the messages that some users of Neighbors app are creating may stoke fears, prejudices, and violence,” added Krishnamoorthi.  “The Subcommittee is eager to review your plans for addressing these problems.  Unfortunately, if acceptable solutions are not presented, it may be necessary for Ring to heed calls to end its partnerships with police and retire its Neighbors App.”


Chairman Krishnamoorthi is also concerned that Ring’s partnerships with local law enforcement gives police a much wider system of surveillance than police legally could build themselves; and that some cities create incentives to place products like Ring’s doorbell cameras in already overpoliced minority neighborhoods.


In the letter, Subcommittee Chair Krishnamoorthi reiterated his request for information made in a letter sent to Amazon on February 19, 2020, which raised many of these same concerns and asked for the information by March 4, 2020. 
 

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