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San Francisco Is Voting Today to Ban the City’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology

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A 3-D facial recognition program is demonstrated during the Biometrics 2004 exhibition and conference.

A San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee will vote today to determine whether or not the city will become the first in the United States to ban the use of facial recognition technology.

The Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, first introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin in January, argues that the “propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring,” according to the Mercury News.

If enacted, the ordinance would require that any technology that could be used by city departments for surveillance purposes—including license plate and toll readers, closed-circuit cameras, body cams, biometrics technology, and software for forecasting criminal activity—must receive both a public input period and supervisor approval before it could be implemented.

While other areas of California have already enacted similar rules to regulate the purchase of surveillance technology, including Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Santa Clara County, the San Francisco ordinance is the first to specifically target facial recognition software. Oakland might not be far behind: The city’s public safety committee will reportedly be considering a proposal to ban facial recognition in late May.

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