Balancing the Needs of Law Enforcement with Privacy Safeguards

Posted by Elena Losseva on 31 May 2019
Golden gate bridge
 
San Francisco, long seen as the technology and innovation center of the world, has recently become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and city agencies. The city's Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 on a measure on May 14th, an action several other cities and states could follow.

Facial recognition systems have been widely used by law enforcement agencies to identify people in photos, video, or in real-time. Historically, this technology has been valuable when it comes to finding missing people, identifying and tracking down criminals, and speeding up investigations. While such technology can be very helpful, there are also a number of privacy concerns.

This new ban forbids the use of facial recognition technology by the city’s 53 departments, including the San Francisco Police Department.

“With this vote, San Francisco has declared that face surveillance technology is incompatible with a healthy democracy and that residents deserve a voice in the decision about high-tech surveillance,” said Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.

Any city department that wants to use surveillance technology must first get approval from the Board of Supervisors, however, existing use of surveillance tech, including police body cameras and license plate readers will still be allowed. Having said this, details of how it is used will need to be shared, and the city will report to the Board of Supervisors each year to ensure that this technology continues to be used in the approved ways.

It is important to note that the ban only applies to the San Francisco city agencies, including the police department. The ban does not apply to the use of the technology by the federal government (for example, at airports and ports). The ban imposes no limitations for companies deploying facial recognition technology for business use (e.g. surveillance cameras on office premises). Facial recognition tech for personal use is also unaffected by this ban.

To read the original New York Times article, click here.

Topics: News, Biometrics, Digital Security, change management