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San Francisco bans police use of face recognition technology

AP  |  San Francisco 

supervisors voted Tuesday to ban the use of software by police and other city departments, becoming the first US city to outlaw a rapidly developing technology that has alarmed and civil liberties advocates.

The ban is part of broader legislation that requires city departments to establish use policies and obtain board approval for technology they want to purchase or are using at present. Several other local governments require departments to disclose and seek approval for technology.

"This is really about saying: 'We can have security without being a security state. We can have good policing without being a police state.' And part of that is building trust with the community based on good community information, not on Big Brother technology," said Aaron Peskin, who championed the legislation.

The ban applies to police and other municipal departments. It does not affect use of the technology by the at airports and ports, nor does it limit personal or business use.

The board did not spend time Tuesday debating the outright ban on technology, focusing instead on the possible burdens placed on police, the transit system and other city agencies that need to maintain public safety.

"I worry about politicizing these decisions," said Catherine Stefani, a former who was the sole no vote.

The and Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., issued a statement chiding San Francisco for considering the ban. It said advanced technology makes it cheaper and faster for police to find suspects and identify missing people.

Critics were silly to compare usage in the with China, given that one country has strong constitutional protections and the other does not, said Daniel Castro, the foundation's

"In reality, San Francisco is more at risk of becoming than China_a ban on facial recognition will make it frozen in time with outdated technology," he said.

It's unclear how many San Francisco departments are using surveillance and for what purposes, said Peskin. There are valid reasons for license-plate readers, body cameras, and security cameras, he said, but the public should know how the tools are being used or if they are being abused.

department stopped testing in 2017. A at Tuesday's board meeting said the department would need two to four additional employees to comply with the legislation.

advocates have squared off with public safety proponents at several heated hearings in San Francisco, a city teeming with tech innovation and the home of Twitter, and

Those who support the ban say the technology is flawed and a serious threat to civil liberties, especially in a city that cherishes public protest and They worry people will one day not be able to go to a mall, the park or a school without being identified and tracked.

But critics say police need all the help they can get, especially in a city with high-profile events and high rates of property crime. That people expect privacy in public space is unreasonable given the proliferation of cellphones and surveillance cameras, said Meredith Serra, a member of a resident public safety group Stop Crime SF.

"To me, the ordinance seems to be a costly additional layer of bureaucracy that really does nothing to improve the safety of our citizens," she said at a hearing.

The city of is considering similar legislation.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, May 15 2019. 13:51 IST