San Francisco could become the first city in the nation to ban any city department from using facial recognition under a proposal that says any benefits of the technology do not outweigh its impact on civil rights.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee is scheduled to vote Monday on the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, which would make it illegal for any department to “obtain, retain, access or use” any face-recognition technology or information obtained from such technology.
The proposal, introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin in January, would also require public input and the supervisors’ approval before agencies buy investigative technology with public funds. That includes the purchase of license plate readers, toll readers, closed-circuit cameras, body cams, and biometrics technology and software for forecasting criminal activity, the San Jose Mercury reports.
Other Bay Area cities and counties, including Berkeley, Palo Alto and Santa Clara County, have similar rules in place about buying investigative technology, but a San Francisco ban on facial recognition would set a precedent. In Oakland, a proposal to add a ban on facial recognition to city regulations is set to be considered by Oakland’s Public Safety Committee later this month.
The San Francisco Police Department, which said it doesn’t use facial recognition, submitted amendments to the ordinance after talking with other city departments, community groups, neighborhood watch groups, and businesses.
Lee Hepner, legislative aide to Peskin, said the supervisor’s office incorporated some of the SFPD’s requests into the ordinance. If it is approved in committee Monday, the full board will vote May 14.