Tech Hub San Francisco First US City to Ban Facial Recognition

San Fran doesn't want local law enforcement to get its hands on the tech.

5. 15. 19 by Kristin Houser
Shutterstock/Victor Tangermann
Image by Shutterstock/Victor Tangermann

Just Say “No”

San Francisco is preemptively shooting down the use of facial recognition.

On Tuesday, the California metropolis’ Board of Supervisors voted 8-to-1 to ban its government agencies from using facial recognition tech despite the fact that none of the agencies currently use the technology.

That makes San Francisco the first city in the United States to pass such a ban — and the decision could inspire others to follow suit.

“I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators,” Aaron Peskin, the city supervisor who sponsored the ban, told The New York Times. “We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here.”

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Mistaken Identity

Facial recognition systems are designed to identify a person in an image or video by mapping and analyzing their facial features.

That’s how they’re supposed to work, anyways — in reality, the systems are often incredibly inaccurate, particularly when attempting to identify women or people with darker skin tones.

Given the dire consequences that could result from that inaccuracy, it’s not surprising that many people — even some of those helping develop the systems — have protested their use by law enforcement and other government entities.

Follow the Leader

Now, San Franciscans won’t have to worry about such systems misidentifying them — and they might not be alone for long, either, as Oakland, Calif., and Somerville, Mass., each currently have a facial recognition ban under consideration as well.

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Additionally, while it’s not an outright facial recognition ban, a pair of U.S. senators did recently introduced legislation that would require companies to get consumers’ permission before collecting data on them through facial recognition systems.

Now that the U.S. hub for technology has decided it needs to keep a tight rein on facial recognition, those initiatives might have an easier time passing — and other locations might be inspired to introduce their own legislation regulating the controversial technology.

READ MORE: San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition Technology [The New York Times]

More on facial recognition: Employees, ACLU Demand Amazon Stop Facilitating Government Surveillance

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