AWS chief Andy Jassy: no on spinoff; yes on facial recognition regs

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AWS chief Andy Jassy: no on spinoff; yes on facial recognition regs
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Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy sees no need to spin off AWS from parent company Amazon.com unless federal antitrust regulators force it, but welcomes government regulation of facial-recognition technology, he said yesterday at Recode’s Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Jassy’s remarks followed a Washington Post report on a Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice agreement that puts antitrust oversight of Amazon under the auspices of the FTC, and a presidential campaign call from Senator Elizabeth Warren to break up Amazon and other large technology companies.

“I can’t speak to what the government is thinking or will do, but at the end of the day, we operate in the United States, and we will follow the United States laws,” Jassy said at the Code technology conference. “If we were forced to do it, I guess we would have to do it. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it.”

When it comes to the digital economy, DOJ antitrust enforcers must determine whether tech companies are growing due to superior price, quality and innovation, or whether some transaction or business practice is, on balance, anti-competitive in purpose and effect, US Assistant Attorney General Makan said during a speech at the Antitrust New Frontiers Conference today in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“The Antitrust Division does not take a myopic view of competition,” Makan said. “Many recent calls for antitrust reform or more radical change are premised on the incorrect notion that antitrust policy is only concerned with keeping prices low. Harm to innovation is also an important dimension of competition that can have far-reaching effects.”

Jassy, meanwhile, doesn’t object to government regulation of facial-recognition technology. Speaking about law enforcement’s use of Amazon Rekognition software and potential civil liberty infringements, Jassy said AWS strongly recommends that its law enforcement customers don’t use results unless they are backed by at least 99 percent confidence levels and then only as “one piece of a human-driven decision like any other piece of evidence.”

“People are looking for those extra sets of protections around the federal government explaining how they want the (facial-recognition) technology to be used and having real ramifications if you misuse it,” Jassy said. “And I wish they would hurry up, because if they don’t, what’s happening is you’re going to have 50 different laws in 50 different states.”

On the next page is a deeper look at what Jassy thinks about AWS separating from Amazon.com and possible government regulation of facial-recognition technology in addition to his thoughts on working with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, starting AWS, the current competitive landscape of cloud computing and what he views as the most promising technologies. His remarks were taken from an interview with Recode editor-at-large Kara Swisher at the technology summit.

Next: Jassy speaks about federal antitrust issues and an AWS spinoff

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