Biometrics

San Francisco Facial Recognition Tech Ban Wins Support

Officials in San Francisco voted Tuesday (May 14) to ban the use of facial recognition technology by city workers in an 8 to 1 vote.

According to a report in Reuters citing City Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the ordinance will become final after the city’s Board of Supervisors votes again next week. The rule also calls on city agencies to submit their surveillance technology policies so the public can review them.  San Francisco is among the cities that are fighting back against facial recognition in the U.S. Government agencies have used the technology in the past, but advances in technology are raising concerns about privacy and discrimination.

“We have a fundamental duty to safeguard the public from potential abuses,” Peskin said ahead of the vote, the news outlet reported. City agencies will still be allowed to use surveillance tools and can make special requests to use restricted surveillance tech in certain circumstance. The idea is to prevent the technology from hurting specific groups of people. Reuters pointed to Amazon’s move to sell its facial recognition software to law enforcement. That raised the ire of privacy experts and advocates since the technology struggles to recognize people with darker skin coloring.

Privacy advocates and civil rights group, as well as Microsoft, have called for the government to regulate the technology. Earlier this year Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the World Economic Forum in Davos that he supports regulation of the technology. He said at the time that as the use of facial recognition technology grows, self-regulation may not go far enough to contend with the impact it may have on society.

Despite the opposition, facial recognition technology is being used for law enforcement. Reuters pointed to U.S. customs as one example. Agents use the technology to identify foreigners in airports. Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, told Reuters that the ban on the part of San Francisco makes the city “frozen in time with outdated technology,” noting that concerns that the U.S. government will use facial recognition to surveil its citizens are overhyped.

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