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The Washington Post reports that a group of Amazon employees have written a letter company founder/CEO Jeff Bezos objecting to the sale of the company’s facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, and specifically asking that Amazon “discontinue partnerships with companies that work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

The employee activism follows similar movements at Google and Microsoft. The Amazon letter is seen as a protest against the Trump administration’s recently suspended policy of separating migrant parents from children at the US-Mexico border.

"We don’t have to wait to find out how these technologies will be used. We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized," the letter states.

The Post notes that the move “follows employee-driven campaigns at Microsoft and Google, where workers have denounced projects that provide technology to ICE and to military operations. Earlier this week, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella told employees that the company's nearly $20 million contract with ICE was not tied to the Trump policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Google responded to a firestorm of employee resignations and public outcry surrounding a Defense Department deal. Executives said they would not renew an artificial intelligence contract for software that could help the Pentagon analyze drone video. Soon after, Google said it was banning the development of AI that can be used in weapons.”

Amazon is said to have “been offering surveillance tech and consulting services to law enforcement agencies for only a fistful of dollars,” the Post writes. “The report prompted a coalition of civil rights groups to demand that Amazon ‘stop powering a government surveillance infrastructure.’ And the details of Amazon’s program highlighted the spread of powerful technologies into American life, often without public input or debate.”
KC's View:
First of all, where did they think this facial recognition was going to be used? Disneyland and nowhere else?

We’re in a moment of severe polarization right now, and I do sort of wish people would take a deep breath. When we get to the point that a person of one political persuasion is asked to leave a restaurant because of those beliefs, I think we’ve crossed a line.

That said … however you feel about these employees’ beliefs, I do think that employers have to respect the fact that these business stakeholders want their concerns to be taken seriously. I don’t think that these concerns can and should be dismissed out of hand; a lot of people want their workplaces to reflect their values, and if they don’t, they’ll find someplace else to work.

I suspect that these scenarios are going to continue to break out, for at least another two years. After that, who knows?