As per recent reports, San Francisco on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 banned the use of facial recognition tech by police and other municipal agencies. The bill nicknamed “Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance” was approved by an 8-1 majority vote, with two absentees, by the city’s Board of Supervisors. Although a second vote that is due for next week is what that will officially enact the bill into city law, it’s largely just a formality.
The new bill prohibits the use of face recognition technology by the police; however, the bill exempts the use of facial recognition tech at San Francisco International Airport and the Port of San Francisco, which falls under the jurisdictional purview of the federal government.
“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,” read the San Francisco ordinance.
With this new ban, commercial businesses and individuals in San Francisco will no longer be able to use the facial recognition technology.
Despite the increased acceptance of facial recognition tech by some municipalities and governmental agencies in the past years, the facial recognition software deployments have raised concerns about civil liberties and racial bias.
Matt Cagle, who is Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, in his statement applauds the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ efforts in passing the facial recognition ban. “With this vote, San Francisco has declared that face surveillance technology is incompatible with a healthy democracy and that residents deserve a voice in decisions about high-tech surveillance,” Cagle said. “We applaud the city for listening to the community and leading the way forward with this crucial legislation. Other cities should take note and set up similar safeguards to protect people’s safety and civil rights.”