Amazon shareholders have voted down proposals meant to curb sales of the company’s controversial facial recognition tool and to limit its carbon output.
The proposals, which were driven by shareholding activists and employees, were nonbinding, but represented a moment of defiance against Amazon. The company’s Rekognition tool, which is sold to law enforcement, has been criticized on civil liberties grounds, and employees have said the company could be doing more to fight climate change.
Two Rekognition proposals would have asked Amazon to cease sales to government agencies and to complete a review of the tool’s civil liberties implications. Amazon went to the Securities Exchange Commission in an attempt to stop the proposals from coming to a vote, but the agency allowed them to continue. The measures had received support from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which pressed the shareholders to adopt the facial recognition proposals.
Amazon employees also rallied around the climate change proposal, which asked the company to adopt a wide-ranging plan. Thousands of employees signed on to an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos supporting the plan. “It’s past time for Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s board to listen,” Amazon organizers said in a statement read after the vote.
“Incremental steps are no longer acceptable in this time of climate emergency,” says @emahlee “Almost 7,700 Amazon employees understand that Amazon must have a comprehensive plan that matches the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.” @Amazon #AGM #AMZNClimate
— Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@AMZNforClimate) May 22, 2019
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the proposals were voted down and said more details would be filed with the SEC and released later this week.
The shareholder meeting came on the same day as a congressional hearing on the use of facial recognition technology. “It’s just more important for Congress to act,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) said at the hearing, in response to the Amazon vote.