San Francisco’s Stop Secret Surveillance Act

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The City and County of San Francisco will begin considering a surveillance transparency ordinance in Mid-March, and would become the biggest city in the country to embrace surveillance transparency to date, if they adopt.

But San Francisco’s Stop Secret Surveillance Act will be unique. In addition to mandating board-approval of use policies and impact reports and annual reporting, San Francisco’s proposed legislation would absolutely ban the use of facial recognition software by the City. This would make San Francisco the first city in the United States to prohibit its use by city government.

Concerns about the use of facial recognition by government, specifically law enforcement agencies, has focused on the high error rate in the technology which has been tied to poor recognition of the faces of young people, women and people of color. This error rate, which seems tied to the lack of diversity in the tech sector, specifically among coders and engineers, is sobering. But it is not the only reason to support this ban.

Data security, specifically the risk of breach, is an unacceptable risk when it comes to irreplaceable biometric data. You can’t replace your face if it is stolen. It’s a whole new meaning for the phrase “identity theft”.

The Stop Secret Surveillance Act will be before the SF Board of Supervisors Rules Committee in Mid-March. Be there!

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