Berkeley bans facial recognition use by local government

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The City Council of Berkeley, California has banned all use of biometric facial recognition technology by government agencies, Gizmodo reports, becoming the fourth city in the U.S. enact similar limits on the technology.

The change to the city’s municipal code was approved unanimously, after it was brought by a pair of council members warning the potential use of facial recognition to track people would lead to violation of the Fourth Amendment. The biometric technology differs from the traditional use of surveillance cameras by bypassing “the human and judicial element behind the existing warrant system,” councilmembers Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila wrote.

“Due to the inherent dragnet nature of facial recognition technology, governments cannot reasonably support by oath or affirmation the particular persons or things to be seized. The programmatic automation of surveillance fundamentally undermines the community’s liberty,” according to the councilmembers.

The move was lauded by groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future.

Oakland recently became the third city in the country to enact a ban on municipal facial recognition use, after San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts. California has also passed a temporary ban on the use of the technology in police body cameras.

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