San Francisco bans city use of facial-recognition tech tools

“Concerned that some new surveillance technologies may be too intrusive, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial-recognition tools by its police and other municipal departments,” Kartikay Mehrotra reports for Bloomberg.

“The Board of Supervisors approved the Stop Secret Surveillance ordinance Tuesday, culminating a re-examination of city policy that began with the false arrest of Denise Green in 2014. Green’s Lexus was misidentified as a stolen vehicle by an automated license-plate reader,” Mehrotra reports. “Since then, San Francisco officials determined flaws in the license-plate reader were just part of a wider potential for abuse with Big Brother-type surveillance capabilities. With new technologies increasingly making it possible to identify people, places and objects, the city decided to imposes a higher bar for snooping tools.”

“‘The central motivator here is public safety, while making sure police can do their jobs,’ said Matt Cagle, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who helped draft the law. ‘We’ve learned a lot about facial recognition and seen how it’s been used in places like China to track and control populations. The public increasingly understands the threat this technology can pose and that isn’t what they want,'” Mehrotra reports. “The law does not prohibit companies or individuals from using facial recognition cameras or other surveillance tools, or from sharing their contents with law enforcement during an investigation. Last month, a New York student sued Apple Inc., claiming the company’s facial-recognition software falsely linked him to a series of thefts at Apple stores.”

“San Francisco’s new law will also require police to confirm the results of their license-plate reader with the California Department of Justice before detaining individuals,” Mehrotra reports. “Also, any city departments seeking to acquire surveillance technology must receive formal approval. It also calls for departments currently in possession of surveillance equipment to propose regulations for use, along with an annual audit of all surveillance tools.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So, no problem for using Face ID to open your iPhone or iPad, just an issue for Big Brother in San Francisco.


  1. Hey, wouldn’t want face ID to provide info on alllll the street-shi**ers in SFO…..

    Adds to the hip urban SFO groove…….mmmmkayyy
    I enjoy stepping over fresh “steamers” every day…..

      1. Here in the Austin area, we have quite enough Californians already, thank you. The ones we have now are driving housing prices through the roof. That same issue is why they have so many people in San Francisco without homes or indoor toilets.

    1. Yes a strange application logic when you analyse it. I guess one has a side benefit to the user and the other not so concerns even if the ‘acceptable’ instance is actually more intrusive or potentially dangerous, is deemed acceptable to the authorities. Morality so often goes out the window in such matters especially once it has become so integrated into public lives.

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