San Francisco Bans Police From Using Facial Recognition Technologies - Is That Right?

San Francisco Bans Police From Using Facial Recognition Technologies - Is That Right?763
source: Flickr

San Francisco is now the first U.S. state to ban the purchase and use of facial recognition technology by its police and other government institutions.

The local Board of Supervisors approved the prohibition on Tuesday as a part of a broader anti-surveillance ordinance. Eight out of 11 board's supervisors approved the ban, while only one voted against it, and two more were absent. The city supervisor, Aaron Peskin, who championed the reform, commented that the board should protect the taxpayers' privacy from potential abuse. 

The use of facial recognition technologies has been widely popular among the police and other U.S. government agencies across the country in recent years. The problem is that it becomes even more powerful with the technological advancement and the emergence of artificial intelligence technologies.

Peskin publicly declined the allegations that the bill was a move against the technologies, given that San Francisco is worldwide innovation capital. The city is home to numerous high-tech giants, including Uber, Twitter, and Airbnb, among others.

In Peskin's view, its ultimate goal is to protect vulnerable and marginalized groups that could be potentially harmed by the technology. He also added that although we all support technologies, no one wanted to live in a police state.

Numerous civil rights groups and some of the tech companies including Microsoft Corp. which is also working on a facial recognition technology have urged the state officials to take measures and regulate technology.

The new law enters into force in a month. It officially bans the use of facial-recognition equipment in all the 53 departments within the city. However, the San Francisco Police Department had tested out similar technologies between 2013 and 2017, it does not use it at the moment.

The Board of Supervisors excluded some federally controlled facilities such as San Francisco International Airport and the Port of San Francisco from the bill. In addition to that, the legislation is not applicable to the residents who own security cameras, Aaron Peskin confirmed.

Meredith Serra, a member of the resident public safety group Stop Crime SF did not approve the bill. In her opinion, San Francisco is a big city, rich in high-profile events and famous for its high rates of property crimes. According to Serra, the local police should be able to use all the help they can get, facial recognition technologies included.

What is your opinion on the topic? Do you agree or disagree that the police should be allowed to use facial recognition technologies?