San Francisco banned government use of facial recognition software

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has banned the use of facial recognition tech by police and city agencies. City departments will now have to disclose any surveillance technology currently in use or planned to be used, while the Board will have to approve the policies related to the use of this tech. The ban doesn’t affect institutions controlled by the federal government, such as the San Francisco International Airport and the Port of San Francisco, nor the use of facial recognition tech for personal and business purposes.

The latest legislation was prompted by news that facial recognition software is prone to misidentifying certain people, especially dark-skinned women. Daniel Castro, the vice president of the industry-backed Technology and Innovation Foundation, says that there “are very reasonable uses of the technology, and so to ban it wholesale is a very extreme reaction to a technology that many people are just now beginning to understand”.

The gender and racial bias of facial recognition technology

Research suggests that facial recognition software might have a gender and racial bias problem, and that algorithms perform worse on certain demographics. Some cities and states respond to this by banning the technology or limiting its use until better and less biased technology is available.