On Tuesday, San Francisco became the first city in the United States, to have voted to prohibit its government agencies and police from using facial recognition software. This decision proved to be a significant blow to a crucial technology that is quickly being developed by law enforcement nationwide.
The 8 to 1 vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors helped in approving the suggestion, which is going to become effective in a month. The proposal would prohibit city agencies, like law enforcement, from using this tool. The agencies won’t be able to use the AI software for finding the identity of any person based on the video clip or photos.
The decree would also need city agencies to get board consent for the use of surveillance technology, and establish audits of surveillance tech that’s already in use. Other cities have accepted similar transparency steps.
The plan, known as the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, was headed by Supervisor Aaron Peskin. In a statement read before the voting, Peskin stated that it was a ruling about having liability around surveillance technology. He even mentioned that it’s not an anti-technology policy as many tools that are still used today are needed for the security of the city. However, facial recognition technology is very dangerous and repressive.
The ban comes amidst a bigger debate over facial recognition, which can be used to rapidly label and recognize people and has prompted new questions about civil liberties. Experts have also brought up specific concerns about the tools.
San Francisco’s judgment will certainly be used as an example as the debate carries on and other cities and states determine whether and how to regulate facial recognition. Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU of Northern California have already showed their support behind the San Francisco plan, while law enforcement in the area has pushed back.