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San Francisco Becomes The First City To Ban Facial Recognition Technology

San Francisco made itself the first city in the US that has completely banned local government and law enforcement application of facial recognition technology. The ordinance is limited in its reach, as of now, since it only applies to city agencies including the SFPD. Nonetheless, the ordinance does strongly regulate the use of any kind of surveillance technology in the future. The bill has been named as the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance.

The Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance has two legislative proposals that comprise it. The first proposal calls for an outright ban on all local governmental usage of facial recognition technology. The second lays out a framework for transparency and oversight into the deployment of all general surveillance technologies.

San Francisco has become the first city in the country to take such an extreme stance on the use of this technology despite the fact that the city police department does not make use of this technology in the first place. The prohibition does not cover private businesses or areas in the city that fall under federal jurisdiction. City official Aaron Peskin said, ‘I think part of San Francisco is the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators. We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here.’

The second legislative proposal in the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance demands government and law enforcement agencies to ask for approval from the city’s Board of Supervisors before deploying any such technological tool. This covers anything ranging from police body cameras to automatic license plate readers.

Why was the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance required? It resonates with an ongoing project from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that is known as Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS), launched in 2016. Basically, there is a widespread concern that these technologies are being incorporated without involving the public and have no oversight. Only the facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies had a market of $130 million in 2018.

What do you think of this ordinance?