Police banned from using facial recognition tech in San Francisco

San Francisco becomes the first city in the US to ban law enforcement and local government agencies from using surveillance technology

15May

City agencies and police in San Francisco have been banned by local government from using facial recognition software.

Legislators voted to ban the use of facial recognition software by the city's law enforcement agencies and the city's transport authority as part of broader legislation which will require city departments to establish use policies and obtain board approval for surveillance technology. Any plans to buy new surveillance technology will now have to be approved by city administrators.

San Francisco and the Bay Area is home to some of the world's most recognizable tech giants, some who have been involved in developing the technology, with the likes of Google and Facebook locked in a race with companies such as Seattle-based Microsoft and Amazon to build all-seeing AI.

Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Northern California, remarked: "With this vote, San Francisco has declared that face surveillance technology is incompatible with a healthy democracy and that residents deserve a voice in decisions about high-tech surveillance.

"We applaud the city for listening to the community and leading the way forward with this crucial legislation. Other cities should take note and set up similar safeguards to protect people's safety and civil rights."

The vote to ban the technology was passed by San Francisco's supervisors 8-1, with two absentees. The measure will be officially passed into city law following a second vote next week.

City supervisor Aaron Peskin, who was among a group of legislators championing the legislation, said: "This is really about saying 'we can have security without being a security state. We can have good policing without being a police state'. And part of that is building trust with the community based on good community information, not on Big Brother technology."

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