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

San Francisco made historical past in 2019 when its Board of Supervisors voted to ban metropolis companies together with the police division from utilizing face recognition. About two dozen different US cities have since adopted swimsuit. However on Tuesday, San Francisco voters appeared to show in opposition to the thought of proscribing police Technology, backing a poll proposition that may 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 provides 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 Technology, permitting approval to be sought any time throughout the first yr.

Matt Cagle, a senior workers 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 essential protections. “We’re involved that Proposition E will lead to folks in San Francisco being topic to unproven and harmful Technology,” he says. “This can be a cynical try by highly effective pursuits to take advantage of 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 just lately pushed a rise in overdose deaths, and industrial downtown neighborhoods are nonetheless combating pandemic-driven workplace and retail vacancies. The proposition was also supported by teams related to the tech trade, together with the campaign group GrowSF, which didn’t reply to a request for remark.

“By supporting the work of our cops, increasing our use of Technology, 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 provides police extra freedom to pursue suspects in automobile chases and reduces paperwork obligations, together with when officers resort to make use of of drive.

Caitlin Seeley George, managing director and marketing campaign director for Battle 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 in recent times to rein in surveillance.”

“By increasing police use of surveillance Technology, whereas concurrently decreasing oversight and transparency, IT undermines peoples’ rights and can create situations the place individuals are at larger danger of hurt,” George says.

Though Cagle of the ACLU shares her considerations that San Francisco residents shall be much less secure, he says town ought to retain its repute 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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