San Francisco Considers Measure to Ban Facial Recognition Tech

Aaron Peskin, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, has proposed a ban on the city’s agencies from using facial recognition technology. If the ordinance, offered by Peskin on Tuesday, succeeds, San Francisco would be the first U.S. city to ban facial recognition technology.

“The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring,” says the proposed ordinance, which is cosponsored by Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee.

The ban on facial recognition technology is only a small part of Peskin’s proposed ordinance. City agencies also would be required to seek the board’s approval before buying new technology, whether through city funds or grant money. Additionally, the ordinance mandates an audit of any existing surveillance technology. For a city like San Francisco this could include gunshot-detection systems, automatic license plate readers, and city-owned surveillance cameras. The audit must include not only how the technology was used, and data supporting its effectiveness, but also any citizen complaints or concerns reported to the government.

Due to the board’s “Thirty Day Rule,” which requires that all measures that would create or revise major city policy be put on ice for 30 days before consideration, the legislation won’t be considered by the Rules Committee until early March.

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