San Fransisco bans facial recognition software

19 May 2019

San  Fransisco city, United States has banned use of facial recognition technology by police and other government departments. The move is contained in the Acquisition of Surveillance Technology Code which creates a rights based approach to surveillance technology through mechanisms such as prior approval before purchase of surveillance software, surveillance impact assessments, surveillance audits and surveillance policies for each department operating surveillance software.

Facial recognition software is being increasingly adopted for policing around the world. Rights groups such as American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have raised concern about bias and inaccuracies with most facial recognition software, particularly against people of colour and women.

San Francisco's  ban does not affect application of facial recognition in spaces under the federal government such as airports. It received support from the San Francisco Police Department which according to reports is internally auditing use of surveillance technology. A local rights group, Stop Crime SF opposed the law, citing public safety concerns. They advised on a moratorium as they expect improvements in facial recognition technology to address current bias concerns.

Explore the issues

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

Broadly speaking, digital signatures are linked to the authentication of individuals on the Internet, which affects many aspects, including jurisdiction, cybercrime, and e-commerce. The use of digital signatures should contribute to building trust on the Internet.


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