Customer Due Diligence
RESOLVED, Shareholders request the Board of Directors commission an independent third-party report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, assessing Amazon’s process for customer due diligence, to determine whether customers’ use of its products or services with surveillance or computer vision capabilities or cloud products contributes to human rights violations.
WHEREAS, Amazon’s surveillance and cloud products may exacerbate systemic inequities, compromise oversight, and contribute to mass surveillance. Amazon Web Services (AWS), the top cloud provider with 2019 revenue of $35 billion, serves all U.S. intelligence agencies, and international governments.
In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression recommended “an immediate moratorium on the global sale and transfer of private surveillance technology until rigorous human rights safeguards are put in place.”1
“Know Your Customer” due diligence mitigates clients’ risks and human rights impacts,2 and informs decisions around which business to pursue or avoid. It can reveal whether “the technologies provided by the company will be used to facilitate governmental human or civil rights or civil liberties violations.”3 In 2020, the Department of State offered due diligence guidance for companies on foreign sales of “products or services that have surveillance capabilities,” including to consider if “the end-user will likely misuse the product or service to carry out human rights violations.”4
Inadequate due diligence around surveillance and cloud products presents material privacy and data security risks. Negative perceptions about Amazon’s ties to U.S. government surveillance may impact competitiveness with other governments.
Amazon’s surveillance technologies perpetuate human rights impacts, including systemic racism, even if used according to Amazon’s guidelines:
● Amazon’s work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Palantir drew employee and customer protests over ICE’s human rights abuses.
● Ring’s 1,600 police partnerships threaten civil rights and civil liberties, and may threaten sales.5 Police disproportionately seek surveillance footage from Black and brown communities. Lawmakers have requested information on police partnerships. Civil rights groups asked Congress to investigate Amazon’s “surveillance empire.” 6 Senator Markey’s 2019 Ring investigation found “no oversight/compliance mechanisms” protecting privacy.7
● Despite content moderation, racist speech is rampant on Ring’s Neighbors application, and users disproportionately labeled people of color as “suspicious.” 8
● After police murdered George Floyd, Amazon announced a yearlong moratorium on Rekognition sales to police. While it is unclear how this impacted existing customers, Amazon facilitated increased police surveillance: Ring established 280 new police partnerships following Floyd’s killing.9 In 2020, Amazon reported increased police requests for customer data.
● Amazon lacks systems to effectively monitor customer use of its technologies. AWS’s top executive said: “I don’t think we know the total number of police departments that are using facial recognition technology.”10 Jackson, Mississippi police used Ring footage for real-time surveillance without Amazon’s involvement.11
Despite potential misuse and lack of effective oversight, Amazon continues releasing surveillance products (home drone, vein scanner) with civil liberties concerns.