Current Events


Is your face public property?



The first American city bans use of facial recognition technology.

What It Is & Why It Matters

Current Events

Facial Recognition

  • What Is It? Think of it like fingerprinting for your facial features. Surveillance technology matches a face to an identity. Ex: Scan of your face matches to your drivers license photo.
  • Where Is It Used? Airports. Stadiums. Shops. Schools. For security & even attendance.
  • NO federal laws regulate this technology or its use.
Current Events

San Francisco’s New Ban

  • First of its kind in the nation.
  • Prohibits local gov’t agencies (such as local police) from using facial surveillance technology & requires future surveillance devices approved by city officials; current technology in use, like body cameras, can stay.
  • Doesn’t apply to private homes, companies or places under federal jurisdiction (ex: airport).
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aEven if the technology is perfect, this is a genie we as a society should want to put back in the bottle, because this is the kind of technology that will inadvertently be used to make every city and state and every country a police state.a

Aaron Peskin, SF Board of Supervisors, who says the technology is too invasive.
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  • Supporters of the ban cite privacy concerns, argue technology is unreliable, perpetuates bias.
  • Recent studies from MIT & Georgetown show the technology is less accurate at identifying non-white people.
  • Supporters of the technology say it keeps us safe as a deterrent and a tool for police to identify criminals & missing people.
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aThe technology is improving and it is continuing to improve. We agree it needs to be tested and needs to be more reliable, but that time will come. But banning it forever doesnat make a lot of sense.a

Frank Noto, president of a neighborhood organization, Stop Crime SF. Although local gov't agencies in SF will not use facial recognition software, the ban doesn't stop police using private company surveillance to solve crimes.
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Facial recognition is already widely used by gov’t & private businesses

  • 2018: MD police used it to identify the gunman at the Capital Gazette.
  • 2017: Apple unveiled Face ID for iPhone.
  • 2016: Customs & Border Patrol began using it at U.S. airports.
  • 2006: DMV in MA began using to detect driveras license fraud.
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Due to the lack of regulation, the list of unanswered questions (ex: What databases, gov't or otherwise, do private companies use or have access to? Are my kids faces already in a database somewhere?) are endless.

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