San Francisco Takes a Historic Step Forward in the Fight for Privacy

San Francisco Takes a Historic Step Forward in the Fight for Privacy | Electronic Frontier FoundationSkip to main content

DEEPLINKS BLOG

May 14, 2019

Image of face outline put together with several lines. Very cyberpunk.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted today by 8-to-1 to make San Francisco the first major city in the United States to ban government use of face surveillance technology. This historic measure applies to all city departments. The Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance also takes an important step toward ensuring a more informed and democratic process before the San Francisco Police Department and other city agencies may acquire other kinds of surveillance technologies.

Face recognition technology is a particularly pernicious form of surveillance, given its disparate propensity to misidentify women, and people of color. However, even if those failures were addressed, we are at a precipice where this technology could soon be used to track people in real-time. This would place entire communities of law-abiding residents into a perpetual line-up, as they attend worship, spend time with romantic partners, attend protests, or simply go about their daily lives.

It is encouraging to see San Francisco take this proactive step in anticipating the surveillance problems on the horizon and heading them off in advance.

It is encouraging to see San Francisco take this proactive step in anticipating the surveillance problems on the horizon and heading them off in advance. This is far easier than trying to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle after it causes harm.

Today’s 8-1 vote appears veto-proof, especially because two sponsors of the ordinance were not in attendance. However, the fight for the privacy and civil rights of the people of San Francisco is not over. EFF will continue to work with our members, coalition partners, lawmakers, and neighbors, to urge Mayor Breed to sign into law the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance. Please join us in this fight by contacting Mayor Breed and expressing your support for the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance.

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Author: Nathan Sheard

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