Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 08:41 AM EDT

San Francisco: Could Soon Be The First City to Ban Use of Facial Recognition Technology by City Agencies

May 09, 2019 01:27 PM EDT

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Last Monday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee rules unanimously approved the "Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance." The ordinance would require supervisor' approval before agencies - including law enforcement - could use public funds for the technology. Final voting for the ordinance will be on May 14 by the full Board of Supervisors. San Francisco could soon be the first-ever city to ban the use of facial recognition technologies by city agencies.

According to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced the ordinance in January, the proposal is specifically to prevent an emerging technology that some belief contributes to the creation of a state where all people are under constant government surveillance.

"We are all for good community policing but we don't want to live in a police state," Peskin added. "At the end of the day it's not just about a flawed technology, it's about the invasive surveillance of the public commons."
Although facial-recognition technology is commonly used for everyday tasks most particularly on phones; unlocking phones and tagging friends on social media, concerns about privacy are almost always present and with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is now very easy to watch and track what people are doing thru this.

In fact, law enforcement agencies always rely on technology to help out in their investigations, but as objective, as it may seem to be, it still makes mistakes. Recently, a college student in New York was mistakenly arrested for some robberies he did not commit just because of facial recognition. Also, a test of a facial recognition software from Amazon, Recognition, by the Orlando Police Department, found that the system mistakenly confused 28 congressmen to mugshots. Another study done by MIT and the University of Toronto showed that technology has trouble correctly identifying women and people of color.

"The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits," the proposed ordinance reads. "And the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring."

The ordinance not only covers facial recognition but it also applies to a wider range of technology such as automated license plate reading and gunshot-detection tools. Furthermore, it will require San Francisco agencies to show all existing surveillance technology inventory to the board for approval.

"Face surveillance won't make us safer, but it will make us less free," Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California said. "As a global leader in technology, it makes sense that San Francisco would understand face surveillance's dangers and act to prevent its deployment. By drawing this line in the sand, San Francisco can show the world what real tech leadership means."

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