The technical capital of the United States has just become the first city in the country to stop the government from using face recognition technology in public places and sectors. In an 8-to-1 vote, the City Board approved an anti-surveillance ordinance that calls for the use of technology by government departments and the police.
“With this vote, San Francisco has declared that face surveillance technology is not compatible with a healthy democracy and residents deserve a voice in decisions about high-tech surveillance.”Matt Cagle of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Northern California told BBC News. “We applaud the city for listening to this community and leading the way in moving forward with this important legislation. Other cities should aim for the protection of the people and the protection of civil rights, and similar security measures should be put in place.”
Facial recognition systems use computer programs to analyze human faces – in real-time or after the truth – and compare them to a database of images according to ACLU. A few names can be given without consent or participation using video cameras on roads, public gatherings and traffic lights.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the pushback against the ban comes from those who believe that blocking such technologies could put pressure on law enforcement with additional work, as well as preventing the city from accessing databases and software systems that could solve the crime. The report is from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Over a one-year period, the AFR assisted in more than 100 arrests and complaints. Last June, authorities were able to apprehend a suspect involved in the shooting of a newspaper using controversial technology. Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) has previously been shown to be effective in combating criminal behavior. An assessment by South Wales Police in the UK found that having the technology-enabled police to identify suspects that they probably would not have been able to otherwise.
Francisco police do not currently use oral recognition technology, but CNN reported that they conducted an experiment between 2013 and 2017. Fifty-three departments in the city, including the San Francisco Police Department, will not be able to use it. However, companies operating at San Francisco International Airport and San Francisco Port can still use face recognition technology, as well as other private systems such as business and security systems and phones.