US: San Francisco moves to ban use of facial recognition technology

San Francisco is all set to ban the purchase and use of facial recognition technology by officials after a 1-8 vote against the practice by the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Reuters reported. A second voting process next week by the same officials will make the decision final. It is seen as just a formality.

“We have a fundamental duty to safeguard the public from potential abuses,” Aaron Peskin, a city supervisor, said before the voting. He said the ordinance was not an anti-technology policy, and will still allow the use of surveillance tools such as security cameras.

The aim of the restriction is to protect “marginalised groups” that can be harmed by the technology, Peskin said. District officials can make an appeal to use certain restricted technology in exceonal circumstances, he said.

Many police forces use facial recognition technology to look for criminal suspects and perpetrators of mass violence, according to The New York Times.

“I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators,” Peskin was quoted as saying. “We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here.”

The Board of Supervisors is the legislative body of the City and County of San Francisco. The city and its neighbouring areas have headquarters of top technology companies including Apple, Twitter, Google and Facebook.