San Francisco on Tuesday voted to ban the use of facial recognition software by the police or other agencies, becoming the first US city to do so.
The “Stop Secret Surveillance” ordinance, which was passed in an 8-to-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors, will further prevent city agencies from adopting any other type of surveillance tech until the public has been given notice and the board has had an opportunity to vote on it.
The ban hopes to deter potential abuse against minorities and innocent civilians. The legislation states that the technology, as it exists today, is unreliable, and represented an unnecessary infringement on people’s privacy and liberty. Particularly, the facial recognition is error prone when analyzing women or people with darker skin.
Opponents of the measure said it will put people’s safety at risk and hinder efforts to fight crime. Rather than an outright ban, many are calling for regulations of the technology. The authorities used the technology to help identify the suspect in the mass shooting at an Annapolis, Md., newspaper last June.
Later this month, Oakland, California, will weigh whether to institute its own ban. Washington state and Massachusetts are considering similar measures.
The ban on facial recognition does not apply to business, individuals or federal agencies.