Ban facial recognition?

San Francisco is first US city to ban facial recognition

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Is San Francisco right to ban facial recognition?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

San Francisco is the first US city to ban facial recognition - and other cities could soon join them.

Legislators passed a vote to stop its use by law enforcement and other agencies in Frisco.

However, some argue that it goes too far - and there should be regulation, rather than a full ban.

The Claim

San Francisco is the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition, the BBC reports.

Legislators in San Francisco passed the vote by eight to one, with two absentees. It is expected to be officially passed into city law after a second vote next week.

Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California, praises the legislators' decision. He argues that other cities should follow San Francisco's lead.

He said: "With this vote, San Francisco has declared that face surveillance technology is incompatible with a healthy democracy and that residents deserve a voice in decisions about high-tech surveillance.

"We applaud the city for listening to the community, and leading the way forward with this crucial legislation.

Cagle added: "Other cities should take note and set up similar safeguards to protect people's safety and civil rights."

The Counterclaim

However, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, opinion is divided over whether the ban would be good for the city.

They spoke to Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, who argues that an outright ban on facial recognition goes way too far.

He said: "To say we’re just going to have an across-the-board ban on something that has some beneficial uses is very misguided and hurts the citizens and the police from using it in beneficial ways."

Castro added: "We’re in this phase right now where there is a lot of fear around technology and what it might do, so there is a motivation to react to it.

"But over time, I think the benefits are clear. People understand their fears about technology before they understand its benefits."

Frank Noto, president of Stop Crime SF, told the Chronicle that he supports regulating the use of facial recognition, but not an outright ban.

He said: "The technology is improving and it is continuing to improve.

"We agree it needs to be tested and needs to be more reliable, but that time will come. But banning it forever doesn’t make a lot of sense."

The Facts

San Francisco’s police department had previously tested face ID technology, but stopped in 2017.

The technology will not be allowed to be used by law enforcement or local agencies, such as the city's transport authority.

Plans to buy new surveillance technologies must also be approved by city administrators.

San Francisco could be joined by other US cities looking to ban facial recognition. The Oakland City Council may vote on a similar measure this year, and officials from officials in Somerville in Massachusetts are considering something similar.

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