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Civil society to Amazon: Terminate your contract to host dangerous U.S. DHS biometric database

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Today, Access Now, Immigrant Defense Project, Just Futures Law, and over 35 human rights organizations sent a letter to Amazon Web Services calling on the company to end its agreement to host the United States Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database. The letter was sent in coordination with a protest to be held today outside Amazon’s annual Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit against the corporation’s growing surveillance network, led by For Us Not Amazon, La ColectiVA, MediaJustice, and the Athena Coalition.

According to a new report from Mijente, Just Futures Law, and the Immigrant Defense Project, HART Attack: How DHS’s Massive Biometric Database Will Supercharge Surveillance and Threaten Rights, DHS intends to use HART to collect vast amounts of biometric data within the U.S. and abroad, including facial recognition, DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and voice prints. Anyone who seeks entry into the U.S., applies for immigration benefits, or is stopped by U.S. immigration authorities could have their biometric data stored in HART once it comes online.

“With its harmful biometric data collection practices, slurping up everything from DNA to voice prints and iris scans, the U.S. DHS criminalizes Latino communities,” said Ángela Alarcón, Latin America and the Caribbean Campaigner at Access Now. “This is an assault on human rights and must be stopped. The HART data-sharing with governments in Latin America and the Caribbean will increase their monitoring capabilities, exacerbating discrimination against already marginalized communities.” 

Once HART comes online, it will be one of the largest biometric databases in the world, teeming with privacy, security, and human rights risks. It will aggregate data from U.S. federal agencies, local and state police, and foreign governments. As stated in HART Attack, even DHS itself has acknowledged the unmitigated and serious data sharing concerns.

HART is a terrifying tool of mass surveillance and state violence, built on invasive and racially-biased data on hundreds of millions of people. We have already experienced the widespread harm of DHS policing practices at the border, within the United States, and globally, and HART will only make them worse,” said Mizue Aizeki, Director of the Surveillance, Tech and Immigration Policing Project at the Immigrant Defense Project. “There is no reforming HART. If Amazon wants to uphold its commitments to human rights, it must immediately end its hosting and support for HART.” 

“Amazon’s continued support of HART will directly lead to more deportations and arrests in Black and brown communities. HART can and will be weaponized,” said Paromita Shah, Executive Director of Just Futures Law. “As long as DHS’ shadowy HART database remains active, our human rights and our privacy will be threatened.” 

Read the full letter.