Jan 31 2019

San Francisco Considers Banning Facial Recognition Tech

The proposed legislation would also place new rules on deploying new surveillance cameras.

A local lawmaker in San Francisco has introduced legislation that would make the city the first in the country to ban the use of facial recognition technology. As StateScoop reports, the bill “would prohibit all city agencies, including law enforcement, from using the technology and any information gleaned from it.”

“We know that facial recognition technology, which has the biases of the people who developed it, disproportionately misidentifies people of color and women,” city supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced the bill, told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday. “This is a fact.” 

Research from the FBI has found that some demographic groups “are more susceptible to errors in the face matching process,” StateScoop notes. Microsoft has called for new laws to regulate the use of facial recognition technology. 

As StateTech has reported, surveillance cameras have become pervasive in many cities in recent years. Although there are clearly privacy concerns in some cities, IP-based video cameras can improve security, discourage people from committing crimes, provide first responders with situational awareness, help police solve crimes and serve as evidence to secure convictions.

The proposed ban is part of a wider package of rules aimed at enhancing oversight of surveillance tech in San Francisco.

Wired reports:

In addition to the ban on facial recognition technology, the ordinance would require city agencies to gain the board’s approval before buying new surveillance technology, putting the burden on city agencies to publicly explain why they want the tools as well as the potential harms. It would also require an audit of any existing surveillance tech — things like gunshot-detection systems, surveillance cameras, or automatic license plate readers — in use by the city; officials would have to report annually on how the technology was used, community complaints, and with whom they share the data.


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