Big tech is no stranger to congressional hearings. Facebook, Google, and Apple all took seats before Congress last year. Now, it seems to be another tech giant’s turn.
Representative Jimmy Gomez is pushing for Amazon to testify on its facial recognition software and the company may not be able to avoid it, according to Gizmodo.
Amazon hasn’t done too well at replying to Congress’ previous requests for meetings. After ACLU researchers found Rekognition falsely matched 28 members of Congress with mugshots — and they were disproportionately people of color —a group of Democratic lawmakers requested a meeting.
Amazon sent a response in August that Congress didn’t find satisfying. Lawmakers ended up sending another inquiry in November written by US Reps. Jimmy Gomez, John Lewis, Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Judy Chu and Sen. Edward Markey.
Now Gomez tells Gizmodo “I’m currently having that discussion with Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. We’re gonna make our case that there should be a hearing on it.”
Amazon has pushed back on critics of its program before and even echoed those sentiments in a Thursday blog post, where Michael Punke, vice president of global public policy at Amazon’s cloud division, AWS, wrote, “You may have read about some of the tests of Amazon Rekognition by outside groups attempting to show how the service could be used to discriminate. In each case, we’ve demonstrated that the service was not used properly.”
But, the company declined participation in a study of algorithmic bias facilitated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that seeks to find instances where racial and gender bias are influencing an algorithm’s error rate, as reported by The Verge.
Amazon may be able to opt out of studies but, if Congress decides to have a hearing on their facial recognition software, that’s one thing the company won’t be able to escape.