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US city ends facial recognition moratorium, considers new rules for police

US city ends facial recognition moratorium, considers new rules for police

Having just asserted local control over its police force for the first time in 160 years, the U.S. city of Baltimore plans to flex its muscles by restricting the purchase of facial recognition surveillance.

A pair of bills have been introduced that would prohibit the purchase of biometric software and hardware without first holding a public hearing and getting the City’s Council’s permission. The legislation also would create a surveillance systems commission to co-regulate their operation.

It also would create a regulatory framework, including reports to the council, to oversee police use of the algorithms, according to reporting by local news publisher The Baltimore Banner.

It is an interesting intersection of developments. Until November, Baltimore’s city charter called for the police to be separate from city agencies and from City Council control. Typically, law enforcement is an integral function of U.S. state and local governments.

The changes come when debate over if and how law enforcement across the United States should use facial recognition swings from bans and moratoriums to unilateral deployments.

Baltimore had passed a facial recognition surveillance moratorium that ended last year. It prohibited most public and private use of surveillance, except for the police.

Proposed language for the bill would bar police use of algorithms at political protests and rallies, and other large gatherings.

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