The heart of Silicon Valley could become the first place where AI-driven facial recognition technology is banned, if proposed legislation is put into place.
The proposition comes from San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Aaron Peskin. It would implement new requirements for police to obtain approval from the city’s Board of Supervisors before purchasing new surveillance technology, and would ban the use of automated facial recognition technology outright.
The proposed legislation can be seen as an outcome of last year’s controversy over Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology to police and government authorities, the revelation of which by the ACLU prompted an outcry from many of the company’s shareholders and employees, in addition to privacy and civil rights advocates. While Amazon has defended its sale of facial recognition technology on the grounds of its benefits in fighting human trafficking and sexual exploitation, the controversy helped to instill a deeper cultural unease about the use of contemporary facial recognition technology in public surveillance that has persisted.
In any case, the realization of this proposed legislation is by no means guaranteed or even likely. As Wired notes, a piece of legislation proposed last year in California’s legislature would have allowed municipal authorities to oversee local police agencies’ use of surveillance technology, but failed to find purchase in the wake of opposition from law enforcement groups. San Francisco police authorities have not yet offered a public response to Peskin’s proposition.
January 31, 2019 – by Alex Perala