San Francisco bans use of facial recognition technology by police


San Francisco is all set to ban the purchase and use of facial recognition technology by officials after a 1-8 vote against the practice by the city's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

He told NPR, "I think the technology is extremely invasive and deeply I think it makes sense that San Francisco would move to ban it, and if they succeed I think that hopefully this lays the groundwork for broader regulation of the technology when it's used by police".

The San Francisco board (council) did not spend time debating the outright ban on facial recognition technology, focusing instead on the possible burdens placed on the police, the transit system and other city agencies that need to maintain public safety.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who championed the legislation, said he was anxious that Big Brother technology would lead to a greater police state in San Francisco, a city teeming with tech innovation and the home of Twitter, Airbnb and Uber.

The San Francisco proposal, he added, "is really forward-looking and looks to prevent the unleashing of this risky technology against the public".

The ban did not include airports or other federally regulated facilities.

No longer allowed in San Francisco.

"The biggest danger is that this technology will be used for general, suspicionless surveillance systems".

City Supervisor Aaron Peskin speaks before a vote on a surveillance technology ordinance that he sponsored, in San Francisco, California, U.S., May 14, 2019.

"In reality, San Francisco is more at risk of becoming Cuba than China - a ban on facial recognition will make it frozen in time with outdated technology", he said.

Today's ordinance vote only impacts city departments, and private use of such systems will be unaffected - everything from the latest iPhones to companies with their own security systems to Facebook using photos to identify people.

It is also tacks a completely opposite tack to other Western cities like London, which has introduced a vast network of cameras that captures a huge amount of activity going on in the capital.

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

San Francisco's police department stopped testing face ID technology in 2017. "These are very reasonable uses of the technology, and so to ban it wholesale is a very extreme reaction to a technology that many people are just now beginning to understand".

"In accordance with the legislation, we are in the process of auditing our technologies and related policies", the statement said.

"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.

Similar legislation is under consideration in nearby Oakland, and Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem introduced a bill that would impose a moratorium on facial recognition software in the state until the technology improves.

Some locals have been vocally opposed to the surveillance ordinance, including several groups of residents.

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

"When responsibly used, it could be a good public safety tool", Engardio said.