San Francisco bans face recognition tech

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Monday, 20 May, 2019

San Francisco bans face recognition tech

San Francisco, the home of Silicon Valley, has banned the use of facial recognition technology by city government agencies, including police forces.

The city's Board of Supervisors has voted 8 to 1 to become the first major US city to enact such a ban.

The measure forms part of a wider package of reforms aimed at requiring agencies to obtain board approval from the board and publicly disclose their intended use before purchasing and using surveillance technologies.

San Francisco police do not currently use facial recognition technology, and the technology is mainly only used in the city at locations such as the international airport and ports. These locations are under federal jurisdiction, so the legislation will not affect their use.

But media reports cite the Bill's sponsor Aaron Peskin as stating that the city felt an obligation to take a leading role due to the perception of San Francisco being the headquarters of the technology sector.

Several more US cities are considering similar bans on the use of facial recognition and biometric surveillance technologies, and others have passed rules requiring government approval before city police deploy new surveillance technology.

Critics of the use of facial recognition in law enforcement have strongly objected to the potential of the technology to infringe on civil liberties and the right to privacy. Concerns have also been raised over the reduced accuracy of facial matching for women and minorities compared to white men.

But in other cities, police departments are actively deploying the technology. The New York Police Department has been involved in a two-year battle seeking to avoid releasing information on the extent of its use of the technology.

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