San Francisco May Be First City To Ban Facial Recognition

The city of San Francisco moved a little closer to banning facial recognition software after adding amendments to the Stop Secret Surveillance ordinance.

According to a report in VentureBeat, the amendments to the ordinance will be open to public comment before the County Board of Supervisors votes on it. If it passes, San Francisco would become the first city to ban the technology that is used to unlock mobile devices and make purchases.  “The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring,” the ordinance amendment stated, according to VentureBeat.

Under the legilsation the County Board of Supervisors in San Franciso is mulling, city departments would be required to create policies governing the use of surveillance technology, explain why they acquired new surveillance tools and provide annual reports that detail how they surveil people and acquire data.  The city’s controller would also be in charge of annual audits. San Francisco would also let the public weigh in before purchasing or deploying any new surveillance technology.  Under the city’s rules, surveillance technology includes license plate readers, cameras, biometrics and software that is used to forecast criminal activities, reported VentureBeat.

With public comment on amending the rules to ban facial recognition open, several privacy groups and concerned citizens came out with statements supporting the potential ban.  Tim Kingston, an investigator in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, said people of San Francisco don’t want to be monitored by the government using advanced technology.  He said the passage of the rules is important to ensure citizens in the city have oversight and control over what new surveillance technology is rolled out. He said it’s particularly important for people who are historically without power in the city.



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