San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City to Ban Police, Local Gov't Use of Facial Recognition Technology

Monica Sanchez | May 15, 2019
Font Size


San Francisco on Tuesday became the first major U.S. city to ban local law enforcement and other city departments from utilizing facial recognition technology.

Fox News reports,

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who championed the legislation, said he was worried that Big Brother technology would lead to a greater police state in San Francisco, a city teeming with tech innovation and the home of Twitter, Airbnb and Uber.

The ban is part of broader legislation requiring city departments to establish use policies and obtain board approval for surveillance technology they want to purchase or have been using. Several other local governments have required departments to disclose and seek approval for surveillance technology.

The ban applies to San Francisco police and other municipal departments. It neither affects use of the technology by the federal government at airports and ports nor limits personal or business use.

The ban, named the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, also includes “oversight measures regulating government use of other surveillance technology such as body cameras and license plate readers,” reports The Hill.

“Similar bans are pending in Oakland, Calif., and Somerville, Mass. Other cities may follow suit after San Francisco's ban on facial recognition tech goes into place,” writes the news site.

The bill moved forward with an 8-1 vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday. A second vote will take place next week but is seen as a formality.  

Proponents of the bill say it will help prevent government abuse of the technology amid concerns over privacy, meanwhile critics of the legislation say it will only serve to hamper law enforcement efforts and impede city departments with further bureaucracy.


(Cover Photo: Flickr / mikemacmarketing)