San Francisco, Oakland could be first in US to ban facial recognition

Bay Area

San Francisco could be one of the first cities in the country to ban facial recognition from being used by law enforcement. 

A City Rules committee passed a bill yesterday on the controversial technology. 

Facial recognition allows law enforcement officers to know when we walk, what stores we visit, what church we go to — through area surveillance cameras. 

A Rules Committee is moving forward to ban this type of technology from being used in San Francisco.

The committee unanimously voted to advance the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, which requires there be a public notice, clear policies, and a vote by the Board before any city department can use surveillance technology. 

But specifically, it bans city and county law enforcement from using facial recognition technology. 

ACLU Northern California has been working with city leaders to stop the surveillance technology from becoming a reality out of concern that it would be abused. 

The ACLU issued a statement saying it applauds the committee for passing the ordinance and urges the full Board of Supervisors to do the same. 

The Human Rights Agency continues to say with this law, San Francisco can demonstrate real tech leadership by giving our communities a seat at the table, and the power to create safeguards to prevent misuse. 

Proponents of facial recognition say it’s a tool that would help law enforcement look through surveillance video to find suspects. 

The City of Oakland isn’t far behind on approving a similar bill. 

The ordinance will now go on to the Board of Supervisors on May 14.

San Francisco Police Department has issued a statement in response, saying: 

The San Francisco Police Department’s mission must be judiciously balanced with the need to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including privacy and free expression. We welcome safeguards to protect those rights while balancing the needs that protect the residents, visitors and businesses of San Francisco.

SFPD strives to be transparent and understands the need for transparency in the use of emerging technologies.

We have submitted amendments for consideration after in-depth discussion with other city departments, community groups, neighborhood watch groups and businesses.

SFPD looks forward to working with the Board of Supervisors, the ACLU, city departments, technology experts and the community in developing legislation that addresses the privacy concerns of technology while balancing the public safety concerns of our growing, international city.

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