San Francisco
San Francisco
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Indybay Feature
San Francisco Becomes First in the Country to Ban the Use of Facial Recognition
by Oakland Privacy
Tuesday May 14th, 2019 3:18 PM
San Francisco Approves Oversight of Surveillance Tech and Becomes 1st Municipality in the Country to Ban The Use of Facial Recognition
San Francisco - At the May 14 meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the City of SF became the 10th jurisdiction in the country to adopt a comprehensive oversight protocol for the acquisition and use of surveillance tech. The Stop Secret Surveillance Act, sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin and co-sponsored by Supervisors Norman Yee, Hilary Ronen, Matt Haney and Shamann Walton, requires board approval of existing and new equipment, use polices and civil rights impact reports to be created for each methodology and annual reports summarizing use, all available to the public. 

San Francisco's Stop Secret Surveillance Act also bans the use of intrusive facial recognition software by the City, which has been demonstrated to be dangerously inaccurate and racially biased. San Francisco has become the first municipality in the nation to ban its use.

Oakland Privacy initiated discussions with Supervisor Peskin's office about bringing surveilllance transparency to California's 4th biggest city in April of 2017. Two years later, after the passage of San Francisco's Privacy First ballot initiative and the spread of facial recognition technology via Amazon's marketing of Rekognition to law enforcement, San Francisco has moved ahead and forged into new ground to protect resident's privacy and give them voice in how they are watched. 

OP co-coordinator and Media Alliance director Tracy Rosenberg commented: "SF's ban on facial recognition is a demonstration that just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should. Sometimes the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. But the most important thing is that now San Francisco has a transparent process to have these discussions going forward and will put rules in place to prevent abuse and misuse and protect human rights - in public." 

San Francisco joins Santa Clara County, Oakland, Berkeley, Davis, Palo Alto, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Seattle, Nashville, Laurence, Somerville, and Cambridge in implementing surveillance transparency protocols, which give communities direct control over how much surveillance tech is used in localities and how it is used and allows for meaningful debate on the balance between security and freedom. 


Oakland Privacy is a citizen’s coalition that works regionally to defend the right to privacy and enhance public transparency and oversight regarding the use of surveillance techniques and equipment. We were instrumental in the creation of the first standing municipal citizens’ privacy advisory commission in the City of Oakland, and we have engaged in privacy enhancing legislative efforts with the Counties of Alameda and Santa Clara and several Northern California cities and regional entities.As experts on municipal privacy reform, we have written use policies and impact reports for a variety of surveillance technologies, conducted research and investigations, and developed frameworks for the implementation of equipment with respect for civil rights, privacy protections and community control. 

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