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Oakland considers banning public facial recognition use as San Francisco police amendments accepted


Oakland may not be far behind San Francisco in banning facial biometrics use by city departments, GovTech reports. The Oakland Public Safety Committee will consider a proposal to include a facial recognition ban with new city rules for surveillance technology later this month.

Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission Chairman Brian Hofer has helped to draft city rules in the area, and says that facial recognition is not in use by police in the Bay, to his knowledge.

Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Santa Clara County have also all put restrictions on surveillance technology procurement, according to GovTech.

San Francisco votes on an ordinance introduced in January, which local police have been rallying opposition to, next week. The San Francisco Police Department has submitted amendments to the ordinance in that city, some of which an aide to ordinance sponsor Aaron Peskin says have been included.

“(Our) mission must be judiciously balanced with the need to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including privacy and free expression,” San Francisco Police Department spokesperson David Stevenson told GovTech. “We welcome safeguards to protect those rights while balancing the needs that protect the residents, visitors and businesses of San Francisco.”

The Department does not currently use facial recognition, while the Oakland Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

National non-profit racial justice advocacy group Color of Change supports the bills in both cities, and in a letter to San Francisco supervisors, noted that a false match from a licence-plate reader resulted in multiple police officers drawing their guns on a woman in 2009, who later settled a lawsuit for $495,000.

Law enforcement agencies in Santa Cruz and the University of California, Berkeley are using predictive policing technology, while area police departments have considered the technology and decided against using it.

A handful of police departments in the U.S. are known to use facial recognition, including in Washington County, Oregon, where police have reportedly used AWS Rekognition to try to identify dead bodies and people in suspect sketches. A deployment by police in Queensland for the 2018 Commonwealth Games was recently revealed to have been largely ineffective.

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