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Use of face biometric surveillance by US cops on ballots – boosts and bans

Use of face biometric surveillance by US cops on ballots – boosts and bans

The advantages of biometric surveillance by police in the U.S. remain subjective and still not universally accepted.

For example, a pair of moderate Democrats and tech investors in liberal-leaning California are generously funding ballot measures that would deregulate to a significant degree police use of facial recognition in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, legislation likely to be introduced in the far northeast state of New Hampshire would ban most uses of biometric surveillance by all state agencies. New Hampshire typically votes moderately Democratic, though its residents include a very small but very energetic Libertarian population.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a serial entrepreneur and crypto industry pioneer and a technology investor have separately contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to backers of Proposition E, which would free city police from many deployment restrictions.

The city’s mayor is pushing deregulation, but four years ago, political leaders were moving in the other direction.

The unusually salty Chris Larsen co-founded crypto business Ripple Labs and E-Loan. An inventory of his political contributions runs Democratic but includes a notable percentage of Republican candidates and causes.

Larsen has so far given $250,000 to a group who want to remove administrative hurdles police face in getting permission for new facial recognition surveillance tools.

Joining him in contributing to reregulation is Ron Conway, managing partner of investment firm SV Angel. Conway has given $100,000, dwarfing funding support even by the city’s police officers association.

The New Hampshire legislation, scheduled to be introduced January 3, would prevent state agencies from using AI “to manipulate, discriminate, or surveil members of the public.”

Banned technology and practices include code that can display human-like cognition and the autonomous generation of “texts, images, or other media in response to prompts.”

It echoes the language of Europe’s AI Act in restricting “real-time and remote biometric identification systems for surveillance in public spaces.” There would be exceptions, but the bill’s early summary only lists searches for people who are missing or abducted. If approved, it would become law July 1.

Law enforcement records of face biometrics surveillance performance are spotty and often boil down to self-congratulation by vendors.

A TV news program in the city of New Orleans, for instance, last month published a vague progress report by a non-profit organization that sells service subscriptions beyond the city that include surveillance infrastructure owned by the non-profit.

Project NOLA sends surveillance data over the internet to the departments. In the story, the organization is credited with “multiple” case resolutions. It “played a big role in crime fighting in 2023.”

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