San Francisco could become first US city to ban facial recognition tech

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San Francisco could become the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition technology, criticized as biased by lawmakers and privacy advocates.

A new bill unveiled on Tuesday, known as the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, states that the risks of the controversial technology “substantially outweigh…its purported benefits and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring.”

“Our intent is to catch people’s attention and have a broader conversation as to where the moral precipice is for technology, after which you’ve gone too far,” Lee Hepner, a legislative aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who proposed the bill, told Ars Technica. “This is a harm to our way of life, a harm to our democracy and a harm to marginalized communities. There is a salient interest in facial recognition, too: it creeps people out.”

News of the bill was first reported by the San Francisco Examiner and The Verge.

Hepner told the tech publication that San Francisco officials don’t know what surveillance technology agencies already have access to.

As previously reported, facial recognition technology from Amazon and other companies has been scrutinized after some studies have shown that it disproportionately misidentified African-Americans and labeled more than two dozen lawmakers, most of whom were people of color, as criminal suspects. In addition, hundreds of Amazon’s employees have protested against the technology being sold to law enforcement.

Partly in response to pressure from critics and privacy advocates, Google hit pause on selling its facial recognition technology late last year.

In May of last year, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to express its concern over Amazon’s facial detection program, Rekognition, being used by law enforcement agencies and the potential for racial bias in its application.

Fox News reached out to the San Francisco Police Department and Amazon for comment and will update the story as needed.

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