In a contentious New York City Council hearing into Amazon’s plans to build part of its so-called HQ2 in Long Island City, Queens, Amazon VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman drew boos over the company’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We think the government should have the best available technology,” Huseman said, referring to the company’s Rekognition software, which is used to recognize images of faces and other objects.
Amazon has faced criticism for its work with ICE as deportations have risen in recent years. It has also faced concerns from civil libertarians and members of Congress for marketing the software to police agencies.
Amazon testifies that they believe ICE should have “the best available technology” as they provide facial recognition software to facilitate deportations. We are a city of immigrants. This is shameful. #NoAmazonNYC@MaketheRoadNY @nychange @caaav @MPower_Change pic.twitter.com/5nvwODjyoK
— ALIGN (@ALIGNny) December 12, 2018
Amazon told The Daily Beast in October it had discussed with ICE the possibility of the agency using Rekognition, although ICE said at the time it didn’t have a contract with Amazon. Amazon declined to comment further on its current relationship with ICE.
The company secured incentives from New York state and city governments for plans to open the new offices in Long Island City, Queens, but it has since seen some pushback from city politicians and residents concerned about gentrification, transit congestion, and the fact that the process largely took place behind closed doors. Amazon has said it will bring about 25,000 jobs to the city.
Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York City’s Staten Island have also recently reportedly announced plans to form a union, citing issues with hours, pay and working conditions. The company has said it respects “employees’ right to choose to join or not join a labor union,” but prefers an existing “open-door policy” where workers can bring concerns to management.