On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition technology by city agencies, especially police departments.
It’s currently the first ban of its kind in the US.
The ordinance, passed on a vote of 8-1, has the added benefit of creating a process for the police department to disclose what current surveillance technology they use, such as cell-site simulators and license plate readers which can track people’s movement over time.
Facial recognition, however, was deemed too harmful to residents’ civil liberties to even consider using.
The ACLU of Northern California, Secure Justice and other advocacy groups were in support of the bill banning familial recognition use.
Brian Hofer, the executive director of privacy advocacy group Secure Justice, noted: “Facial surveillance technology is a huge legal and civil liberties risk now due to its significant error rate, and it will be worse when it becomes a perfectly accurate mass surveillance, tracking us as we move about our daily lives.”
While San Francisco is the first, it won’t be alone for long.
Several other cities, such as Oakland and Berkley, California, as well as Somerville, Massachusetts, are considering the same ban.
It’s a part of a bigger concern over technology privacy concerns expressed from both lawmakers and tech companies.
For example, in July, Microsoft asked the federal government to regulate facial recognition technology and even declined to sell their technology to law enforcement.
Currently, facial recognition software is used in locations like airports and shopping centers.
Other tech companies, such as Amazon, are selling the technology to police departments, amid public privacy concerns.
The San Francisco Police Department has said in a statement that their “mission must be judiciously balanced with the need to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including privacy and free expression.”