This City Could Be First in US to Ban Police Use of Facial Recognition

San Francisco supervisors will vote on bill Tuesday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 13, 2019 1:24 AM CDT
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In this Oct. 31, 2018 photo, demonstrators hold images of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos near their faces during a Halloween-themed protest at Amazon headquarters over the company's facial recognition system.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(Newser) – San Francisco is on track to become the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies, reflecting a growing backlash against a technology that's creeping into airports, motor vehicle departments, stores, stadiums, and home security cameras, the AP reports. Government agencies around the US have used the technology for more than a decade to scan databases for suspects and prevent identity fraud. But recent advances in artificial intelligence have created more sophisticated computer vision tools, making it easier for police to pinpoint a missing child or protester in a moving crowd—or for retailers to analyze a shopper's facial expressions as they peruse store shelves.

San Francisco's proposed face-recognition ban is part of broader legislation aimed at regulating the use of surveillance by city departments. The legislation applies only to San Francisco government and would not affect companies or people who want to use the technology. It also would not affect the use of facial recognition at San Francisco International Airport, where security is mostly overseen by federal agencies. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday. Supervisor Aaron Peskin acknowledges his legislation, called the "Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance," isn't very tech-friendly. But public oversight is critical given the potential for abuse, he says. San Francisco police say they stopped testing face recognition in 2017. (Amazon's facial recognition software falsely identified 28 lawmakers as crooks.)

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