In a new action, San Francisco legislators have banned use of facial recognition by local agencies. Implementation of the new feature makes San Francisco the first American city to outlaw the feature for city’s transport authority or for law enforcement.
Moreover, as a part of the action, city administrators will also examine any new kind of surveillance technology brought by the agencies. A vote for the measure was passed by San Francisco’s supervisors, 8-1, with two absentees. The act will officially become part of the city law after a second vote which is due next week. The new rule will not be applicable to security measures at San Francisco’s airport or sea port, since they are not run by local agencies, but governed by the federal.
The measure was not welcomed, especially based on the reasons that it will put people’s safety at risk and also restrict efforts to fight crime. The opponents pointed out that the systems are prone to error, and especially when it dealt with women or people with darker skin. Some opponents also voiced against applying the measure to local police, however they were unsuccessful in their purpose. Reports suggest, San Francisco’s officers do not currently use the technology of facial recognition, but it is used by a number of other police forces across the US.
The vice-president of Stop Crime SF, Joel Engardio said in a statement, “Instead of an outright ban, we believe a moratorium would have been more appropriate. We agree there are problems with facial recognition ID technology and it should not be used today. But the technology will improve and it could be a useful tool for public safety when used responsibly. We should keep the door open for that possibility.”
However, there are also people in favour of the action. These underlined the point that technology of face-recognition was unreliable and added to unnecessary infringement on people’s privacy and liberty. A statement in favour of the move by Matt Cagle from the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California said, “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. 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.”