San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City To Ban Face Recognition Surveillance

7 2019 shows a security camera in the Financial District of San Francisco. San Francisco is on track to become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies as the technology cre

San Francisco has banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and government agencies but the ban does not include airports or other federally regulated facilities.

"I worry about politicizing these decisions", said Supervisor Catherine Stefani, a former prosecutor who was the sole no vote.

But in recent years, technological advances have raised concerns about civil liberties and racial bias.

"I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators", said Peskin, who represents neighborhoods on the northeast side of the city.

The biggest question facing the United States and the world in general is: do you allow such technologies to be introduced and then consider where to scale them back based on experience, or do you ban them and only allow their introduction after lengthy discussion?

"We applaud the city for listening to the community, and leading the way forward with this crucial legislation".

A second reading of the so-called Stop Secretive Surveillance ordinance is expected to be approved at an upcoming board meeting, when it will officially become law.

Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, also supports the San Francisco proposal. "That's incompatible with a healthy democracy".

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Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said concerns that the US government would use face identification for mass surveillance, like China has, were overblown. He told NPR, "The government has no business tracking when we leave our homes, when we go to a park or place of worship, and that's the sort of power that facial recognition technology gives the government". Pop star Taylor Swift has reportedly incorporated the technology at one of her shows, using it to help identify stalkers.

And while Stop Crime SF sees the faults in existing facial-recognition technology, it's also concerned about prohibiting its use entirely.

The group had been encouraging residents to send a form letter to supervisors.

Departments will need to get board approval to continue using or acquiring technology.

San Francisco's new rule, which is set to go into effect in a month, forbids the use of facial-recognition technology by the city's 53 departments - including the San Francisco Police Department, which doesn't now use such technology but did test it out between 2013 and 2017.

Some local homeless shelters use biometric finger scans and photos to track shelter usage, said Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. Supervisor Aaron Peskin said that as the policy evolves, the ordinance will be amended.

"It shall be unlawful for any department to obtain, retain, access, or use any Face Recognition Technology or any information obtained from Face Recognition Technology", read a graph tucked into the lengthy document.

But Dave Maas, senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, offered a partial list of police departments that he said used the technology, including Las Vegas; San Diego; New York City; Boston; Detroit; Durham, North Carolina; Orlando, Florida; and San Jose, California.

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