The use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement continues to be a concern for civil rights and privacy advocates. Many point out its potential to worsen pre-existing surveillance of marginalized communities. With that in mind, San Francisco is quickly on its way to becoming the first city to ban facial recognition surveillance.
Back in February, San Francisco’s lawmakers proposed the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance that would restrict all city departments from using facial recognition tech. In addition, they’d need board approval to purchase any new surveillance devices.
Although the proposal has the support of groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one group is notably pushing back: police.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) has not only opposed the bill but Supervisor Aaron Peskin — who introduced the legislation — said his office has been bombarded with identical emails originating from the Police Officers Association, as reported by Gizmodo.
According to Gizmodo, the SFPOA has worked with Stop Crime SF, the city’s port, and Oracle Park.
Part of the letter claims that the proposed legislation would “make us less safe.” It also raises concerns around homeowners who use video cameras — although the legislation isn’t about them at all.
The proposal itself stated, “The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring.”
These concerns have been noted time and time again. A report from Slate in March showed that facial recognition technology is trained using images of vulnerable people. Even the training of these systems just exacerbates racial disparities, as noted within Slate’s report.
“It reproduces racial disparities that are well-known in the U.S. legal system. According to our calculations, while black Americans make up 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 47.5 percent of the photographs in the data set,” according to Slate.
The surveillance of Black communities is ingrained within this country’s beginnings. It certainly doesn’t need to be given yet another digital upgrade.