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In January, San Francisco legislation proposed a ban on using facial recognition technology by the government. The ban is imposed on government agencies, including the city police and county sheriff’s department, but excludes the technology that unlocks the iPhone or cameras installed by businesses or individuals. Again this month, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance.

And yesterday it has been reported that the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the ban to use facial recognition by city agencies.

Northern California’s Matt Cagle and Brian Hofer, chair of Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission, came in support of this ordinance and wrote in an op-ed last week, “If unleashed, face surveillance would suppress civic engagement, compound discriminatory policing, and fundamentally change how we exist in public spaces.”

The proposal faced opposition from few, a local group named Stop Crime SF argued a ban might not be that fruitful when talking about property crime and might also impact in collecting and presenting evidence of crime.

Though the vice president of Stop Crime SF, Joel Engardio, seems to be satisfied with the amended bill. In a statement to Wired, he says, “We agree with the concerns that people have about facial ID technology. The technology is bad and needs a lot of improvement.”

This move definitely would impact the use of technology all over the world and might motivate other cities to adopt the same.

Last month, the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission released 2 key documents, an initiative to protect Oaklanders’ privacy namely, Proposed ban on facial recognition and City of Oakland Privacy Principles.

Techies and developers of the facial recognition systems have been showing their concern in this regard and think that introducing strict rules and surveillance would be better than putting up a ban.

Benji Hutchinson, vice president of federal operations for NEC, a major supplier of facial-recognition technology, says, “I think there’s a little bit too much fear and loathing in the land around facial-recognition technology.”

In a statement to Wired, Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Forum believes in calling for safeguards on the use of the technology rather than prohibitions. He also calls ban a “step backward for privacy,” as it will leave more people reviewing surveillance video.

Though in the board meeting, Peskin said, “I want to be clear — this is not an anti-technology policy.”  He further clarified that the ordinance is also an accountability measure which would ensure safe and responsible use for surveillance tech.

Update from ACLU on 21st May

San Francisco’s ban on using facial recognition technology by the government is now official. Yesterday, Matt Cagle tweeted that San Francisco has approved the ban by a vote of 10 to 1.

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