Amazon AWS: AWS, biometrics and human rights

May 27, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

AWS is under pressure to drop a contract it holds with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which will see it host the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) biometric database, which, according to a recent report by Mijente, Just Futures Law and the Immigrant Defense Project, holds biometric information on more than 270 million people (including children) and includes fingerprints, iris scans, facial images. Since its inception in 2016, HART has been hoarding data and is currently expected to hold 6.7 million iris scans and 1.1 billion face images. It plans to keep this data for at least 75 years. 

More than 41 human rights and civil society organizations have come together to protest AWS's involvement with HART, and in a public letter, signed by Access Now, Mijente, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and others, the groups said: "AWS is directly facilitating the creation of an invasive biometrics database that will supercharge surveillance and deportation, risking human rights violations." Specifically 

The organizations went on to stage a protest at Amazon Web Services' (AWS) summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., this week to spotlight the issue. Some of the groups in attendance included MediaJustice, the Muslim Counterpublics Lab and For Us Not Amazon. 

Commenting on the purpose of the AWS summit, and the dangers posed by Amazon technology, Myaisha Hayes, campaign strategies director at MediaJustice told The Hill: "These summits are just a part of the P.R. strategy to sanitize Amazon's role as facilitators in state violence." She added: "While attendees will spend three days learning all about the power and capabilities of AWS, I doubt they'll hear about the people who have been displaced, arrested, and even deported because of Amazon's technology," she told The Hill.

Speaking about her concerns around the technology, Access Now U.S. Policy and Advocacy Manager Jennifer Brody said: "They make it painstakingly clear that the data is not safe and no one will know how it will end up and how it will be repurposed.