City of San Francisco may soon prohibit use of facial recognition

In more recent times, facial recognition technology has found itself in headlines with respect to remarks made by Microsoft President, Brad Smith, who said that a "sweeping ban on all government use clearly goes too far and risks being cruel in its humanitarian effect". The statement from Smith came in response to a letter from a band of 85 activist groups that sought to discourage the company from selling its facial recognition technology to governments.

Now, it seems that one US city has set a precedent by banning the use of such technology by local authorities. San Francisco supervisors voted in favor of the ban in an overwhelming majority of 8-1, with two supervisors absent from the proceedings. In addition to the ban on facial recognition solutions, city officials must review and sign off any plans that involve the implementation of new surveillance technologies.

With respect to the move, Matt Cagle from the American Civil Liberties Union 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. Other cities should take note and set up similar safeguards to protect people's safety and civil rights."

Unsurprisingly, opponents to the outcome voiced concerns with respect to inhibiting law enforcement activities, with some supporting a moratorium rather than a ban, including Stop Crime SF vice-president Joel Engardio who said:

"We agree there are problems with facial recognition ID technology and it should not be used today. But the technology will improve and it could be a useful tool for public safety when used responsibly. We should keep the door open for that possibility."

A second vote on the matter slated to take place sometime next week, if successful, will see the measure become law.

Source: BBC News

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