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San Francisco could become first to ban facial recognition technology

Committee to vote on Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance

David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

The city of San Francisco has proposed a measure that would ban the use of facial recognition technology.

If passed, the city would be the first in the country to make it illegal to "obtain, retain, access or use" such technology or information obtained from it, the East Bay Times reported.

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

A committee of the city's Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Monday on the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance. If approved, it would go to a full vote May 14. Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced the measure in January.

Oakland's Public Safety Committee will consider a similar proposal later this month.

What else does the proposal call for?

The ordinance would also call for public input, along with approval from the city's Board of Supervisors, before any department could use public funds to purchase surveillance technology.

Required approvals would include purchases of license plate readers, toll readers, closed-circuit cameras, and bodycams.

What does the San Francisco Police Department say?

The San Francisco Police Departmen, which said it doesn't use facial recognition technology, submitted input on the proposed ordinance, according to the newspaper.

"(Our) mission must be judiciously balanced with the need to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including privacy and free expression," SFPD spokesman David Stevenson told the Times. "We welcome safeguards to protect those rights while balancing the needs that protect the residents, visitors, and businesses of San Francisco."

Peskin's legislative assistant said the ordinance includes some of the department's requests.

What else?

Other cities and counties in the Bay Area, including Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Santa Clara County, have similar regulations regarding the purchasing surveillance technology but San Francisco would be the first to issue a ban.

One last thing…
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