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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Steffi Loos/Getty

Government use of facial recognition systems came under biting attack on both sides of the country today — in Congress and at one of the largest tech companies in the world.

Why it matters: Momentum is picking up to limit police facial recognition, driven by widespread concerns about the technology's accuracy and fairness. Slowing its rollout would be a serious blow to an emerging field that has so far grown unchecked.

What's happening: Critics turned up the heat in Washington state and Washington, D.C.

  • At Amazon's shareholder meeting in Seattle, investors voted on two proposals to limit the company from selling its facial recognition software to governments.
  • On Capitol Hill, the House Government Oversight Committee displayed a rare bipartisan drive to consider adopting restrictions for the technology.

Amazon shareholders voted down the proposals, as was widely expected. Privacy groups claimed that their appearance on the ballot — despite Amazon's complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission — shows that investors are concerned with a potential hit from selling an untested tech.

  • Matt Cagle, an ACLU staff attorney, told Axios ahead of the Amazon meeting:
"It is an embarrassment for Amazon's leadership that their failure to address this technology's obvious dangers — to civil rights and the company's reputation — has come to this: a shareholder intervention."

But the House hearing suggested that even if private companies don't act, Congress may. Lawmakers at either extreme of the political spectrum — staunch Trump ally Mark Meadows and progressive superhero Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — came down on the same side of the question. Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said:

"You’ve now hit the sweet spot that brings progressives and conservatives together. … I’m here to tell you we’re serious about this and let’s get together and work on legislation. The time is now before it goes out of control."

Context: It's been a tough couple of weeks for facial recognition. Last week, San Francisco voted to implement a complete ban on the city's use of facial recognition surveillance.

What's next: The House Government Oversight Committee is inviting witnesses from law enforcement to an upcoming second hearing on the same topic, which promises to sound very different.

Go deeper: Uncovering secret government AI

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said Monday that he is "absolutely" confident that the company will be able to meet its distribution goals, which include 100 million doses by June and up to a billion by the end of 2021.

Driving the news: J&J is already in the process of shipping 3.9 million doses this week, just days after the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the one-shot vaccine. Gorsky said he expects vaccines to be administered to Americans "literally within the next 24 to 48 hours."

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Clash of the central bankers

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Bloomberg, Samuel Corum (Stringer)/Getty Images

While Fed chair Jerome Powell is brushing off the seismic rise in government bond yields and a corresponding decline in stock prices, a group of central bankers in the Pacific are starting to take action.

Driving the news: Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda told parliament on Friday the BOJ would not allow yields on government debt to continue rising further above the BOJ's 0% target.

Biden expresses support for Amazon workers' union vote in Alabama

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a union vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama in a two-minute video posted on Twitter Sunday, though he did not name the tech giant specifically.

Why it matters: A vote by workers at the Bessemer, Ala., warehouse to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union would make the facility the first Amazon warehouse to unionize in the U.S., per NPR. The election will run through March 29.

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