San Francisco has become the first major city in the United States to ban government use of face surveillance technology
Civil liberty groups have been expressing increased unease about the technology’s potential abuse by government and authorities amid fears of an overly oppressive surveillance state culture.
Aaron Peskin, the city supervisor who sponsored the San Franciso bill, said that it sent a strong message to the rest of the USA.
Matt Cagle, a lawyer based in Northern California, on Tuesday added that the technology “provides government with unprecedented power to track people going about their daily lives. That’s incompatible with a healthy democracy.”
He added that the San Francisco ban “is really forward-looking and looks to prevent the unleashing of this dangerous technology against the public.”
Several UK police forces have been trialling the technology including attempts in Cardiff. Ed Bridges, a former Lib Dem councillor in Cardiff has threatened South Wales Police with legal action if it doesn’t stop using facial recognition technology, stating it “violates privacy rights of everyone within range of the cameras, has a chilling effect on peaceful protest, discriminates against women and BAME people, and breaches data protection laws”.
Corey Stoughton, Liberty’s Advocacy Director in Britain, said: “Police’s creeping rollout of facial recognition into our streets and public spaces is a poisonous cocktail – it shows a disregard for democratic scrutiny, an indifference to discrimination and a rejection of the public’s fundamental rights to privacy and free expression.
“Scanning thousands of our faces and comparing them to shady databases with wildly inaccurate results has seriously chilling implications for our freedom and puts everyone in a continuous police line-up that carries a huge risk of injustice.”
Main photo by Sheila Scarborough under CC By 2.0 licence