San Francisco bans use of facial recognition technology by local enforcement

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and all other municipal agencies.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and all other municipal agencies.

The board voted for more accountability for surveillance technology under the "Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance."

RELATED: Expert says San Francisco facial recognition technology ban would be warning to police

This is a monumental time and shocking decision for many. San Francisco is known for its technology but also for being a sanctuary city and those two roles played a big part today with a 8-1 vote banning facial recognition for law enforcement.

"When personal information of innocent members of the public is shared with third parties in ways that would make anyone uncomfortable. When marginalized groups weather because of the color of their skin, their religion, national origin or sexual orientation or gender identity are tracked," said San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Aaron Peskin.

Enacting the first ban by a major city, San Francisco said no to facial recognition by police but not to personal, business or federal use.

"City department who purchases, accesses or uses surveillance technology to develop use policies, for that technology through a public vetting process," Peskin said.

Only one supervisor voted against the ban. Peskin authored it, and says the "Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance" will prevent law enforcement from targeting marginalized communities.

"ICE is accessing location data from license plate readers owned by major cities across the country in order to track and facilitate deportation of immigrants," he said.

San Francisco resident and vice president of Stop Crime SF Joel Engardio opposes the ban and says it's needed for large scale events. "If people know that we are not using certain technology, then we become an open target."

Currently in San Francisco, this technology is used by San Francisco police in the form of license plate readers and by SFTMA in their public transit. Moving forward, the use of this technology would need to be approved by the board.

"We've seen other countries trying it like the UK and China very famously has really been pushing hard on this. It does raise a lot of concerns about people's privacy. Especially if the government is using it, how much is the government intruding in our lives and tracking everywhere we go," said Ian Sherr, executive editor of CNET.