Whistleblower claims Amazon breached UK sanctions by selling facial recognition technology to Russia

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A former employee has accused Amazon of violating British sanctions by selling facial recognition technology to Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine. The Financial Times reported.

Charles Forrest claimed he was wrongfully dismissed in 2023 after accusing Amazon of misconduct on a number of issues between November 2022 and May 2023, the article said. The allegations were presented at a hearing this week at an employment tribunal in London.

Forrest said Amazon has struck a deal with a Russian company VisionLabs to grant access to it Recognition facial recognition technology. According to the tribunal documents, it did so “through what appears to be a shell company established in the Netherlands”. He also accused the company of violating the self-imposed moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology by police implemented after the murder of George Floyd.

Amazon denied the allegations. “We believe the claims are without merit and look forward to demonstrating this through the legal process,” a spokesperson told the newspaper FT. “Based on the available evidence and billing information, AWS did not sell Amazon Rekognition services to VisionLabs.”

Forrest was fired for “gross misconduct” after he refused to work his contracted hours and failed to respond to emails or attend meetings, Amazon alleged. It denied that Forrest made the kinds of revelations that would entitle him to whistleblower protection.

Amazon appeared to acknowledge that it had violated its ban on the use of facial recognition technology by police, while adding that it had not broken any laws. “A self-imposed moratorium does not amount to a legal obligation,” the report said.

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