Civil rights groups ask the FTC to stop Amazon surveillance

Ring presents potential facial recognition nightmare, say critics

A collection of 48 civil rights groups has written to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking it to clamp down on corporate surveillance, focusing on Amazon as an example of bad practice. 

The letter calls for the FTC to ban corporate use of facial recognition technology and continuous surveillance in public places. It asked the Commission to make rules to stop the corporate sharing of such data and warned of potential discrimination if surveillance information was used irresponsibly. 

The letter called out the e-commerce giant for privacy and security infractions in several products and services. These include Alexa, its Ring connected cameras, and its recently announced Sidewalk service, which connects an owner's Amazon devices with other peoples' devices on an opt-out basis

"Though many companies sell connected devices, Amazon provides a perfect case study on how monopolistic power compounds unfair practices, and why the FTC must act to prevent further abuses wherever they occur," the letter said. 

The groups pointed to Ring as an example of privacy violation through facial recognition. These security cameras routinely spy on people without their consent, creating a vast surveillance network police departments can access

The letter expressed concern that video data could be paired with facial recognition algorithms. 

Related Resource

Building a winning data strategy

How to build analytics agility, become a data-driven enterprise, and more

Squares with people working connecting to a city center - whitepaper from AWSFree download

"Facial recognition is a discriminatory and experimental technology with a bias that harms people of color, women, and gender-non-conforming people" the letter read, also referring to violent policing in black communities. "Even if the prejudicial inaccuracies of this technology were somehow fixed, facial recognition would still pose a danger to everyone, not just customers," it added. 

Ring gathers video data without the subject’s consent, warned the letter. Even the owners of Amazon devices cannot give meaningful consent because they can't know or judge far-reaching future harms of data collection, it pointed out. It listed identity theft and sharing data with third parties as possible dangers. 

The camera system has also proved insecure in the past, the groups warned, pointing to incidents where people have hacked cameras to watch and speak to children, and others where cameras have leaked Wi-Fi passwords

Amazon, which paused its sale of facial recognition software to police departments last year, isn't the only corporation to use surveillance technology. Banks also use facial recognition to monitor customers. 

One of the signatories of this week's letter is the Open Markets Institute, for which FTC chair Lina Khan has worked in the past. 

Featured Resources

The ultimate guide to business connectivity in field services

A roadmap to increased workplace efficiency

Free download

The definitive guide to migrating to the cloud

Migrate apps to the public cloud with multi-cloud infrastructure solutions

Free download

Transform your network with advanced load balancing from VMware

How to modernise load balancing to enable digital transformation

Free download

How to secure workloads in hybrid clouds

Cloud workload protection

Free download

Recommended

Amazon to offer cyber insurance to UK SMBs
cyber security

Amazon to offer cyber insurance to UK SMBs

28 Sep 2021
AWS adds new features to Amazon Connect
Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS adds new features to Amazon Connect

27 Sep 2021
Infosys selects AWS to develop next-gen quantum computing applications
high-performance computing (HPC)

Infosys selects AWS to develop next-gen quantum computing applications

22 Sep 2021
AWS to launch cloud services reseller in Australia
Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS to launch cloud services reseller in Australia

17 Sep 2021

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

17 Sep 2021
What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Best MDM solutions 2020
mobile device management (MDM)

Best MDM solutions 2020

17 Sep 2021