5 Years After San Francisco Banned Face Recognition, Voters Ask for Extra Surveillance

5 Years After San Francisco Banned Face Recognition, Voters Ask for More Surveillance

San Francisco made historical past in 2019 when its Board of Supervisors voted to ban metropolis businesses together with the police division from utilizing face recognition. About two dozen different US cities have since adopted go well with. However on Tuesday, San Francisco voters appeared to show in opposition to the thought of limiting police know-how, backing a poll proposition that can make it simpler for metropolis police to deploy drones and different surveillance instruments.

Proposition E handed with 60 p.c of the vote and was backed by San Francisco mayor London Breed. It offers the San Francisco Police Division new freedom to put in public safety cameras and deploy drones with out oversight from town’s Police Fee or Board of Supervisors. It additionally loosens a requirement that SFPD get clearance from the Board of Supervisors earlier than adopting new surveillance know-how, permitting approval to be sought any time inside the first yr.

Matt Cagle, a senior employees legal professional with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, says these modifications depart the present ban on face recognition in place however loosen different necessary protections. “We’re involved that Proposition E will end in individuals in San Francisco being topic to unproven and harmful know-how,” he says. “This can be a cynical try by highly effective pursuits to use fears about crime and shift extra energy to the police.”

Mayor Breed and different backers have positioned it as a solution to concern about crime in San Francisco. Crime figures have broadly declined, however fentanyl has not too long ago pushed a rise in overdose deaths, and industrial downtown neighborhoods are nonetheless scuffling with pandemic-driven workplace and retail vacancies. The proposition was additionally supported by teams related to the tech trade, together with the marketing campaign group GrowSF, which didn’t reply to a request for remark.

“By supporting the work of our cops, increasing our use of know-how, and getting officers out from behind their desks and onto our streets, we are going to proceed in our mission to make San Francisco a safer metropolis,” Mayor Breed mentioned in an announcement on the proposition passing. She famous that 2023 noticed the bottom crime charges in a decade within the metropolis—aside from a pandemic blip in 2020—with charges of property crime and violent crime persevering with to say no additional in 2024.

Proposition E additionally offers police extra freedom to pursue suspects in automobile chases and reduces paperwork obligations, together with when officers resort to make use of of pressure.

Caitlin Seeley George, managing director and marketing campaign director for Struggle for the Future, a nonprofit that has lengthy campaigned in opposition to using face recognition, calls the proposition “a blow to the hard-fought reforms that San Francisco has championed lately to rein in surveillance.”

“By increasing police use of surveillance know-how, whereas concurrently lowering oversight and transparency, it undermines peoples’ rights and can create situations the place persons are at higher threat of hurt,” George says.

Though Cagle of the ACLU shares her considerations that San Francisco residents can be much less protected, he says town ought to retain its fame for having catalyzed a US-wide pushback in opposition to surveillance. San Francisco’s 2019 ban on face recognition was adopted by about two dozen different cities, lots of which additionally added new oversight mechanisms for police surveillance.

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