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Last Updated : May 19, 2019 07:17 PM IST | Source:

San Francisco becomes 1st US city to ban facial recognition tool

The new law banning the use of this technology will come into effect within a month

Moneycontrol News @moneycontrolcom

San Francisco made headlines on Tuesday after becoming the first city in the United States to vote in favour of banning its government agencies from using facial recognition tools.

The new law banning the use of this technology will come into effect within a month. Once put into practice, no city agency, including the law enforcement agencies would be allowed to use the tool.

The decree would additionally require city agencies to seek approval from the board before using surveillance technology alongside conducting audits of surveillance technology that is already in use. Other cities too have accepted similar measures to introduce more transparency.


According to a report by The Verge, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted eight to one, okaying the proposal.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin spearheaded the plan called the ‘Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance’. Reading out a statement ahead of the vote, Peskin told the board it was “an ordinance about having accountability around surveillance technology”.

He explained how this policy is not against technology, pointing out how several tools used by law enforcement agencies are still crucial to maintain the city’s security. Yet, he went on to add, face recognition tool is not one of them as it is “uniquely dangerous and oppressive”.

The ban comes at a time when a larger debate concerning facial recognition technology is brewing, as many continue to uphold how the ability to rapidly identify people brings to fore important questions over civil liberties. Several experts have also raised concerns over the specific tool, as multiple researchers have laid down examples of existent bias and error rates.

Technology giant Microsoft, which offers facial recognition tools, is looking at regulating the technology. While it is not known how exactly they are planning to regulate the tool, there are proposals ranging from light regulation to full moratoriums. However, not much has been done beyond that.

It is believed that San Francisco’s decree would be used as an example in the debates concerning facial recognition technology in future.

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First Published on May 15, 2019 07:16 pm
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