San Francisco votes to ban city use of facial recognition technology

Attendees interact with a facial recognition demonstration during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan 8, 2019. The San Francisco board of supervisors has enacted the first ban by a major American city on the use of facial recognition tech
Attendees interact with a facial recognition demonstration during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan 8, 2019. The San Francisco board of supervisors has enacted the first ban by a major American city on the use of facial recognition technology by police and other municipal agencies.PHOTO: NYTIMES

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - San Francisco officials on Tuesday (May 14) voted eight to one to ban the purchase and use of facial recognition technology by city personnel, in a move to regulate tools that local Silicon Valley companies helped develop.

The ordinance, which also would require city departments to submit surveillance technology policies for public vetting, can become final after a second vote next week by the same officials, the city's Board of Supervisors.

The action puts San Francisco at the forefront of increasing discontent in the United States over facial recognition, which government agencies have used for years and now has become more powerful with the rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies.

Since last year, Amazon.com Inc has come under scrutiny for selling an image analysis and ID service to law enforcement, which researchers say struggles to identify the gender of individuals with darker skin, prompting fears of unjust arrests. Amazon has defended its work and said all users must follow the law.

Civil rights groups, as well as some companies including Microsoft Corp, which markets a facial recognition service, have called for regulation of the technology in recent months. This has added momentum to the effort in San Francisco.