San Francisco bans facial recognition technology

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San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday approved a ban on police and other public agencies using facial recognition technology, making it the first city in the U.S. with such a restriction, CBS San Francisco reported. The ban is part of broader oversight legislation that orders San Francisco departments to spell out details of any surveillance currently in use and any surveillance they hope to use.

The rules committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to pass the “Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, which would disallow city and county law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition systems.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been working to keep the technology out of the hands of government, especially after they tested it recently and found that 28 members of the U.S. Congress falsely matched mugshots of criminals.

“Facial recognition is biased against people of color and it’s often inaccurate,” Matt Cagle, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told “CBS Evening News” recently.

The ACLU points to its test of Amazon’s facial recognition program as proof after scanning images of members of Congress and comparing them to archived arrest photos. Twenty-eight lawmakers were incorrectly matched, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

San Francisco’s face ID ban will apply to city departments, but not to personal, business or federal use.

Privacy advocates have squared off with public safety proponents at several heated hearings in San Francisco, a city teeming with tech innovation and the home of Twitter, Airbnb and Uber.

Those who support the ban say facial recognition technology is not only flawed, but a serious threat to civil rights. Opponents say the police need help catching criminals.

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