Facial recognition banned in another city

Oakland City Council has voted to ban facial recognition technology.

James Martin/Techhnews

The City of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area has voted to ban municipal use of facial recognition technology, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced. Late Tuesday night, Oakland’s City Council voted to pass the ordinance.

San Francisco in May was the first city to ban its police officers from using facial recognition technology, citing a breach of citizens’ civil liberties, with Somerville City Council in Massachusetts following suit on June 28.

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Matt Cagle, ACLU Northern California technology and civil liberties attorney, said the elected representatives should be making the decisions on the government’s ability to collect and use facial recognition imaging.

“Decisions about whether we want to hand the government the power to identify who attends protests, political rallies, church or AA meetings should not be made in the secret backroom of a police station, lobbied by corporate executives that market this technology,” Cagle said Wednesday.

Oakland’s council will vote for a second and final time on Sep. 17.

The ACLU said US Congress on Tuesday night also passed an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that would require the Director of National Intelligence to report on any government use of facial recognition technology (pdf).

Reports would include information on the accuracy of the technology, as well as policies and procedures to protect human rights and First Amendment rights. The law shows Congress is recognizing “that this surveillance technology presents an unprecedented threat to our most fundamental democratic values,” Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU senior legislative counsel, said. 

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