San Francisco may ban facial recognition technology

San Francisco could become the first city in the US to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and other city agencies.

Following backlash against facial recognition technology being implemented into airports, stores, stadiums and home security cameras, the “Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance” legislation would prohibit government agencies in San Francisco from using facial recognition.

The legislation would not affect companies or people who want to utilise the technology, but only impact government agencies including law enforcement. The proposed bill passed unanimously in a committee vote, and will move for a final vote on the 14 May by the San Francisco board of supervisors.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said:

“We are all for good community policing but we don’t want to live in a police state.

“At the end of the day it’s not just about a flawed technology, it’s about the invasive surveillance of public commons.”

If passed, San Francisco would become the first city in the US to ban the use of facial recognition by government agencies, as well as having other cities and states following after them. The California Legislature is currently considering a proposal that would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology on body cameras.

Of course, local critics of the legislation have raised concerns about the ban disrupting police investigations.

Joel Engardio, vice president of grassroots group Stop Crime SF stated:

“Our point of view is, rather than a blanket ban forever, why not a moratorium so we’re not using problematic technology, but we open the door for when technology improves?”

Many times facial recognition technology has helped law enforcement. In Massachusetts, the motor vehicle registry has used the technology to prevent driver’s license fraud.

Matt Cagle, attorney at the ACLU of Northern California said:

“Face surveillance won’t make us safer, but it will make us less free.”

“As a global leader in technology, it makes sense that San Francisco would understand face surveillance’s dangers and act to prevent its deployment. By drawing this line in the sand, San Francisco can show the world what real tech leadership means.”

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