Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy supports federal regulation of facial-recognition technology

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy speaks at re:Invent 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

After widespread criticism of Amazon Web Services’ decision to sell cloud-based facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, CEO Andy Jassy said Monday evening that he is open to federal regulation regarding use of the controversial technology.

Speaking at the Code Conference in Arizona, Jassy said that he was open to regulation forcing law enforcement agencies to use a very high confidence level when employing facial recognition technology in investigations. Microsoft has called for similar regulation to ensure that law enforcement agencies are properly using facial-recognition technology, which can produce a lot of false positives and which has been criticized for poor results when analyzing the faces of people of color.

A live stream of Jassy’s comments Monday evening was not available, but several reporters on site as well as Recode’s official Twitter account confirmed that Jassy expressed support for potential regulation. “I strongly believe that just (because) technology could be misused, doesn’t mean we should ban it and condemn it,” he said, according to CNN’s Sara O’Brien, but also suggested that regulators need to make sure that human review is an important part of using facial-recognition technology in law enforcement.

AWS has defended sales of Rekognition, a cloud service that provides facial recognition technology for both still pictures and video, to law enforcement agencies such as the city of Orlando, Fla., and in Oregon’s Washington Country, which includes several suburbs of Portland. Law enforcement agencies have been using facial recognition technology for years, but the ease at which technologies like Rekognition can be implemented amid growing concern about the power of surveillance technology since 2016 has generated a decent amount of blowback, including from some Amazon employees.

Update 6/11: Recode released the full video of Jassy’s appearance:

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