San Francisco becomes first US city to ban facial recognition technology
San Francisco has just become the first city in the United States to entirely ban local government and law enforcement uses of facial recognition technology. Although the ordinance is currently limited in its reach, only really applying to city agencies such as the SFPD, it does strictly regulate the future deployment of all kinds of surveillance technology.
Called the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, the bill contains two major legislative proposals. The first, and most novel, is an outright ban on all local governmental uses of facial recognition technology. San Francisco is the first city in the country to push the issue this far into an outright ban, although at this stage the prohibition is entirely hypothetical as the city police department does not currently use the technology. The prohibition does not extend to private businesses or areas in the city under federal jurisdiction, such as the airport.
In regard to the somewhat symbolic nature of this prohibition city official Aaron Peskin suggested the ordinance was designed to not only send a message to the entire country, but also to the majority of large tech companies located in the city.
"I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators," Peskin told The New York Times. "We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here."
The second legislative proposal in the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance lays out a framework for transparency and oversight into the deployment of all general surveillance technologies. This demands government and law enforcement agencies seek approval from the city's Board of Supervisors before any such technological tool is deployed. This second proposal covers everything from police body cameras and automatic license plate readers, to predictive policing software and biometric surveillance systems.
This particular aspect of the ordinance echoes an ongoing project from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS). This effort was launched back in 2016 in order to legislate public control and transparency over what technologies are used by local law enforcement agencies. To date, over 10 city councils across the US have approved CCOPS legislation with dozens more working on passing the oversight regulations.
Despite the fundamental limitations of this new San Francisco ordinance, it may shine a light on exactly how widespread the use of these new technologies actually is. The use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies in the US is currently booming, with some estimates suggesting the market took in over US$130 million in 2018.
Concerns are being raised that these technologies are being deployed with great secrecy and no oversight. Several instances by privacy advocates to get police departments to reveal exactly what surveillance systems they are using have failed, and police uses of facial recognition technologies do not need to be revealed in court.
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Imagine a future world where/when law enforcement can quickly find & catch any wanted criminals! Imagine a future world where/when criminals can no longer walk or drive around @ public places/streets! Would not these be immensely beneficial for law enforcement & common good of general public?
(License Plate Scanners could also detect drivers who did not pay fines/fees/insurance etc.)
(By the way, IMHO, electronic license plates should/must never be allowed to be legal anywhere, because they can be easily reprogrammed later, to defeat License Plate Scanners, by displaying fake license plates!)
Facial Recognition tech can also be used for ticketless public transportation & shopping etc, w/o needing to carry money or card etc.
Also, Facial Recognition & License Plate Scanner techs are bad/evil, just because, they can do the same job, better (cheaper & more accurately & immensely faster) than any law enforcement people can?
What about privacy?
IMHO, general public is not really obsessed about privacy, unlike self-appointed "privacy advocates" always claim/pretend! IMHO, the only people who are always really obsessed about "privacy" are criminals & their tireless supporters!
We're all human, good and bad, and those in power have more freedom than most to act on their impulses, doing "favours", getting revenge, and so on.
This legislation puts the people back into a state of responsibility for their actions for if their personal power is constantly subverted or controlled by more and more technology then society becomes a superset of fearful, unhappy and self-doubting people. This scenario won't end well as crime will grow. We can already to see the cracks from over-control.
We don't need to be held hostage to the dogmatic views of our self-appointed elite. I hope more cities, states, and countries adopt this approach or we'll all end up getting fined for breathing wrong and offensive comments against food.
PS: Read George Orwell.
I have mixed feelings about Big Brother spying on us. On the one hand, it could help cops catch the bad guys. On the other, it could allow misled police departments to catch someone innocently mistaking a pronoun (or, heaven forbid, appropriating culture!), then allow the cops to nab them, too.
It will be interesting to see how the City Fathers react next time there is a big terrorist attack in SF, and the lawyers argue that a journalist taking photos and showing them to the police/FBI or any other enforcement agency, or the agency or the providers of CCTV, (or even an individual) is/are infringing an ordinance as well as the terrorists' human rights.
Wring your hands somewhere else, is the politest thing one can say.