San Francisco Bans Face Recognition Technology
The city of San Francisco has passed a bill to ban use of face recognition technology.
SAN Francisco’s board of supervisors have voted 8-1 to ban the use of face recognition technology by police and other government agencies. It’s the first city in the U.S. to block a technology police officers say assists them when investigating crime.
The ban is part of wider discomfort with rapidly developing face recognition technology. In Washington last month, a bill was introduced that will ban business users of face recognition from collecting and sharing data for identifying or tracking consumers without their consent.
“I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators,” city supervisor, Aaron Peskin said. “We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here.”
Meanwhile, Matt Cagle, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California, said the technology “provides government with unprecedented power to track people going about their daily lives. That’s incompatible with a healthy democracy.”
The ban prevents city agencies from using facial recognition technology, or information gleaned from CCTV systems that use the technology. But critics of the ban have called for regulations that govern what they see as a useful technology.
“It is ridiculous to deny the value of this technology in securing airports and border installations,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University. “…There is a public safety value to this technology.”
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Police Officers Association said the ban would hinder their members’ efforts to investigate crime.
“We understand it’s not a 100 per cent accurate technology yet – it’s still evolving,” said Tony Montoya, president of the POA. “I think it has been successful in at least providing leads to criminal investigators.”
Ed Davis, the former Boston police commissioner who led the department during the Boston Marathon attack, said it was “premature to be banning things.”
“This technology is still developing,” he said, “and as it improves, this could be the answer to a lot of problems we have securing our communities.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now using facial recognition in many airports and ports of sea entry. At airports, international travelers stand before cameras, then have their pictures matched against photos provided in their passport applications. Face recognition technology is also used at Australian international airports to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of border control processes.