San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition Use by Police

San Francisco on Tuesday became the first US city to ban use of facial recognition technology by police or other government agencies.


Backers of the legislation argued that using software and cameras to positively identify people is, as city councillor Aaron Peskin put it, "not ready for prime time."


All but one of the nine members of San Francisco's board of supervisors endorsed the legislation, which will be voted on again next week in a procedural step not expected to change the outcome.


"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," read the legislation passed  Tuesday.


The ban was part of broader legislation setting use and auditing policy for surveillance systems, creating high hurdles and requiring board approval for any city agencies.


"It shall be unlawful for any department to obtain, retain, access, or use any Face Recognition Technology or any information obtained from Face Recognition Technology," read a graph tucked into the lengthy document.


The ban did not include airports or other federally regulated facilities.


A similar ban is being considered across the bay in the city of Oakland.


Worries about the technology include dangers of innocent people being misidentified as wrongdoers and that systems can infringe on privacy in everyday life.


Others, however, argue that facial recognition systems can help police fight crime and keep streets safer. The technology has been credited with helping police capture dangerous criminals, but also criticized for mistaken identifications.


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