back to article SEC says no to Amazon bid to stop shareholders voting on use of facial recognition system

The Securities and Exchange Commission has blocked Amazon's efforts to prevent shareholders voting at next month's Annual General Meeting on the sale of its facial recognition tech to the US government. A group of Amazon's investors called on the business in January to halt the sale of Rekognition to federal agencies unless …

  1. Mark 85

    Voting in the corporate world.

    The way corporations set up their stock for voting purposes makes all this legal action probably moot. Often the board has stock that entitles them to say 5 votes or more for every share. What's sold on the market has only one vote. It'll be interesting to watch how this plays our. Popcorn anyone?

    1. Chris G

      Re: Voting in the corporate world.

      They should drop Amazon stock like a shot and everyone else should find somewhere else to buy online. I find Amazon prices generally high compared to going direct to a lot of firms.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Voting in the corporate world.

        I've no desire to make the world's richest man any richer, but I do tend to buy using Amazon as I only have to trust them with my card details rather than hundreds of suppliers all over the world. Also, I've never had any problem with refunds and returns when using Amazon, whereas firms dealt with directly are something of a gamble.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Voting in the corporate world.

          I also see some benefits from using Amazon to buy stuff. In many cases, buying directly from other manufacturers means I have to pay for shipping from each one, which is more expensive for each one than Amazon is charging even when they don't give me free shipping. If something doesn't arrive, I can quite easily see the status from Amazon's system but I don't necessarily have that information from each additional individual company. Also, Amazon offers a middle ground between small companies that only have their products and the Chinese selling platforms such as aliexpress that sell everything but with untested and unverified quality. If you need something rare-ish, you can probably find it on amazon* more easily than you could find a company selling it. It also allows you to compare different options because they're all listed there**. I don't know if we can provide similar benefits for non-amazon systems, but I'm totally in favor if we can.

          *Finding something easily on Amazon: Use a search engine, rather than Amazon's search feature. Sometimes Amazon will show you the wrong things even when the product you want is available and has exactly the same name as your search query.

          **Comparisons between options: This can help when you want a product of a type but don't have specifications. You can look at the various options for sale, filter out the ones with negative reviews, obviously fake reviews, or features you don't want, and choose from the remaining set. That becomes much harder when you first have to find the websites of each manufacturer and then compare based only on the information they choose to put there.

          1. DCFusor

            Re: Voting in the corporate world.

            As Amazon destroys brick and mortar - even Walmart, many 3rd parties are selling through Amazon at what amounts to a loss, or at least a huge discount over what you can get anywhere else. You have to be willing to buy in bulk and especially to be a good shopper who knows what the normal prices of things are. I stocked up on several examples of things that are between ~ 1/2 and 1/4th the cost at the local retailer. Note this isn't universal by any means, as mentioned elsewhere here, sometimes the prices are much higher - you have to do your part and chase it all down, as many things are sold by more than one source on Amazon and at different pricing.

            Perhaps some of these sellers are losing money, but are using this to go out of business a little slower than otherwise. I have no idea, my responsibility is to my own family, and if someone chooses to sell to me at a loss, or simply forgo the normally huge market of normal retail, I still have people to feed, etc.

            Try to buy a case lot of something that keeps well at the grocery store for a discount. You can't. But you can on Amazon, more often than not. That alone knocks out a 50% or higher margin middleman.

            No, those big box stores that offer what looks like those sort of deals don't deliver on the price...after all, they still have that overhead, just not quite as much as the corner grocer.

            I fully understand why the Germans got upset with those dash buttons. One thing I've noticed is that you might find a deal on some product - be it a case of canned soup or instant oatmeal - and make it a button. But if you then use that button (or, I'm told, Alexa) to reorder later, you don't get that price, you are then sent to the highest priced seller instead, without any warning whatever.

            To make my approach work, you have to pay attention to every single item and order.

            Note that this approach also applies to a lot of other things, not just food. I buy a lot of tech stuff at the subassembly level, parts etc, and have long dealt with the major specialist distributors of such things. Amazon (china) is often far lower price - and same quality, cutting out another middleman. The internet is the most deflationary invention ever - of course, all those middlemen are going to have to find other employ or go on the dole...

            It could be the luddites were right - just too soon. Ditto Malthus.

    2. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Voting in the corporate world.

      Bezos (and his soon to be ex-wife) have as much votes as all the other shareholders. And the Amazon dividend is 0.0. So basically, "investing" in Amazon stock gets you no dividend and no effect control over the company. I have no idea why people put up with this. You don't even get a pretty certificate anymore.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Voting in the corporate world.

        Because you are allowed to sell the stock for a profit.

        When it IPO'ed it was $18 it is now $1850 - 'investing' only got you a 10,000% return

        1. Jim Mitchell

          Re: Voting in the corporate world.

          All true, but doesn't really answer the question. Why is the buyer willing to pay that $1850 for Amazon stock? All they are buying is the right to sell that share to somebody else later. At least gold can be made into useful objects.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Voting in the corporate world.

            That's true for any stock that doesn't pay a dividend or buy back its shares.

          2. Mark 85

            Re: Voting in the corporate world.

            I asked my broker/advisor that one some time ago.. it's either because they think the stock is going to go up and make them a fortune or lose money for tax purposes.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Lose money for tax purposes?

              That makes no sense. You are better off not buying things you think will lose money unless your tax rate is 100%.

  2. asdf


    Wow the SEC actually doing its job for once instead of propping up the fat cats. That is different.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: SEC

      Erm ... traditionally it's the investors[1] who get called fat cats, but here the SEC is supporting them against management shenanigans.

      [1] I think 'investors' include most of us - albeit indirectly through managed investments such as our pension funds.

      1. DCFusor

        Re: SEC

        FWIW, the big money - which includes things like mutual and retirement funds, are losing faith the FAANGs stocks these days. (Acronym - facebook, amazon, apple, netflix, google).

        The SEC only busts the smaller thieves....a few millions and you go down, make it many billions and you get bailed out instead. See all history for examples, no need to make things up here.

  3. David 45


    Possibly! It's a start, I suppose, if yet another invention of the devil can be stopped at source. There are a more than a few rumblings in the UK about the London Metropolitan Police "trialling" facial recognition and, presumably sweeping up perfectly innocent people in their database, despite denials. (If you're doing nothing wrong.........etc). Don't know who supplies THEIR kit. Be interesting to find out. Wonder if a FOI request would work?

  4. Snowy Silver badge

    Does it matter?

    If the vote does go against them what it is stop them spinning the technology out to a wholly own independent company and doing it anyway?

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Does it matter?

      The shareholders - the same people who are fighting this time - would have a say. That's not to say it couldn't happen, but in the first instance a new company they spin off would have the same owners.

      Likewise they could in principle sell the technology to a company whose business is selling weapons to dodgy regimes. But exactly the same shareholders might raise an eyebrow at that, too.

  5. JLV
    Paris Hilton

    hmmmm. If shareholder pay limit and/or c-level accountability initiatives generally get no traction whatsoever, what would be the chance of Amazon getting thwarted here?

    Probably quite a lot lower than this bad press.

    We need a Streisand Effect icon.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      It has no chance, almost all Amazon shares on the open market will be held by ETFs, mutual funds etc who have no interest in voting. This is a publicity event.

      How effective it is depends on how Amazon reacts.

      You could say that they should have just ignored it and avoided the Streisand effect, but then you could make their shareholder meeting an endless series of votes on every cause by anyone with a single share. It's as if a single vote on a you-gov petition required a parliamentary vote.

      I suspect they will change the articles to require a larger percentage of shares to table a motion.

  6. a_yank_lurker

    One Minor Stupidity

    While the Ferals are not exactly choirboys, if these clowns had half a brain they would realize there many governments that make the Ferals look like incompetent amateurs when it comes to violating civil rights. So Amazon can sell AI to Putin or Beijing but not to Ferals. It's not that I trust the Ferals with this, I don't but there are others I trust even less.

  7. Pseudonymous Howard

    The real question is:

    why would anybody need a system that can automatically recognize facials?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The real question is:

      Doesn't pornhub already have this?

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