San Francisco Bans Government Use of Facial Recognition Surveillance Cameras

Biometrics / Facial Recognition technology / Big Brother
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San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted this week to outlaw facial recognition surveillance technology that they say could have been used by the city government to invade on the privacy of its citizens.

According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco has become the first city in the country to outlaw facial recognition technology that could be used with surveillance cameras. The decision is a big victory for privacy advocates, who have expressed concerns in recent years that surveillance technology could lead to an Orwellian nightmare.

Aaron Peskin, who wrote the legislation that outlaws facial recognition technology for the purpose of government surveillance, said that he believes that the San Francisco city government cannot build trust with the community by deploying surveillance technology to monitor their behaviors.

“This is really about saying we can have security without being a security state. We can have good policing without being a police state,” Peskin said. “Part of that is building trust with the community.”

Only one member of the Board of Supervisors, Catherine Stefani, voted against the decision to outlaw the technology. Stefani argued that a complete ban of the technology would prevent local police from utilizing it to catch criminals.

“I am not yet convinced, and I still have many outstanding questions,” Stefani said. But “that does not undermine what I think is a very well-intentioned piece of legislation.”

 A local activist group called “Stop Crime SF” is not satisfied with the decision. A representative from the group told the San Francisco Chronicle that the surveillance technology could have been used to increase public safety.

“We agree there are problems with facial recognition ID technology and it should not be used today,” the group’s vice president said. “But the technology will improve and it could be a useful tool for public safety when used responsibly and with greater accuracy. We should keep the door open for that possibility.”

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