San Francisco is taking a stand against inherent abuse. On Tuesday, the city agreed to ban the facial recognition software to be used by police and other agencies.
Eight out of nine Board of Supervisors voted to bar such a tool. The city’s police forces utilize this search tool to help in searching for criminal suspects and perpetrators in the mass shooting last June.
Although the technology is beneficial, civil liberty groups are not comfortable about it. For them, the tool can be abused by the government and used it to become an extremely harsh monitoring state.
The ban includes government agencies, such as the city police and sheriff’s department. However, it excludes the technology that can unlock your iPhone. It also does not include the cameras installed by individuals and businesses.
In San Francisco, agencies must request approval from the board before they can purchase surveillance tools. When the request is approved, they must disclose publicly the intended use of the tool. Other cities may also consider outlawing this technology.
Facial recognition technology is a useful tool. Law enforcement is employing it to determine fraud and identify potential suspects. However, critics are uncomfortable with this technology as this can be a dangerous tool that can be used for real-time surveillance.
In some studies, researchers found that this technology provides less accurate results when it is used in identifying individuals of color. It also automates prejudice, which is an ongoing problem in law enforcement.
Privacy advocates consider banning this technology as a way to prevent it from getting too ingrained in society. The police department in San Francisco does not utilize facial recognition. However, it did test it on booking photos from 2013 to 2017.
The Sheriff’s department also does not use it. The department stated that it will comply with the requirements. The officers are using Axon body cameras but they do not have facial recognition technology. However, the ban excludes the federal agencies, like the airport and ports.
Only a few groups in the city objected to the proposal. The Stop Crime SF said that banning could increase property crime. It may also affect negatively in collecting evidence.
In the amended legislation, private individuals can share tips with the police. But the agencies cannot solicit information actively through facial-recognition software.
The agencies are also mandated to divulge how the information was obtained. In this way, it can track how often this technology is being used. If there is a small increase in use, then it could mean moving it into a less-regulated private sector.
The VP of Stop Crime stated that the amended bill is satisfactory. The technology includes a lot of concerns. For the Stop Crime SF, this tool is bad and it requires improvements. Although it prefers a moratorium instead of a ban, the group still supports the broader rules.
Makers of this technology are not happy. There is too much fear around facial recognition technology. They are afraid some cities would copy the bills that might result in a patchwork of local laws.