5 Years After San Francisco Banned Face Recognition, Voters Ask for More Surveillance

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San Francisco made history successful 2019 erstwhile its Board of Supervisors voted to prohibition metropolis agencies including nan constabulary section from utilizing look recognition. About two twelve different US cities person since followed suit. But connected Tuesday San Francisco voters appeared to move against nan thought of restricting constabulary technology, backing a ballot proposition that will make it easier for metropolis constabulary to deploy drones and different surveillance tools.

Proposition E passed pinch 60 percent of nan ballot and was backed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed. It gives nan San Francisco Police Department caller state to instal nationalist information cameras and deploy drones without oversight from nan city’s Police Commission aliases Board of Supervisors. It besides loosens a request that SFPD get clearance from nan Board of Supervisors earlier adopting caller surveillance technology, allowing support to beryllium sought immoderate clip wrong nan first year.

Matt Cagle, a elder unit lawyer pinch ACLU of Northern California, says those changes time off nan existing prohibition connected look nickname successful spot but loosen different important protections. “We’re concerned that Proposition E will consequence successful group successful San Francisco being taxable to unproven and vulnerable technology,” he says. “This is simply a cynical effort by powerful interests to utilization fears astir crime and displacement much powerfulness to nan police.”

Mayor Breed and different backers person positioned it arsenic an reply to interest astir crime successful San Francisco. Crime figures person broadly declined but fentanyl has precocious driven an summation successful overdose deaths and commercialized downtown neighborhoods are still struggling pinch pandemic-driven agency and unit vacancies. The proposition was besides supported by groups associated pinch nan tech industry, including campaign group GrowSF, which did not respond to a petition for comment.

“By supporting nan activity of our constabulary officers, expanding our usage of exertion and getting officers retired from down their desks and onto our streets, we will proceed successful our ngo to make San Francisco a safer city,” Mayor Breed said successful a connection connected nan proposition passing. She noted that 2023 saw nan lowest crime rates successful a decade successful nan city—except for a pandemic blip successful 2020—with rates of spot crime and convulsive crime continuing to diminution further successful 2024.

Proposition E besides gives constabulary much state to prosecute suspects successful car chases and reduces paperwork obligations, including erstwhile officers edifice to usage of force.

Caitlin Seeley George, managing head and run head for Fight for nan Future, a nonprofit that has agelong campaigned against nan usage of look recognition, calls nan proposition “a rustle to nan hard-fought reforms that San Francisco has championed successful caller years to rein successful surveillance.”

“By expanding constabulary usage of surveillance technology, while simultaneously reducing oversight and transparency, it undermines peoples' authorities and will create scenarios wherever group are astatine greater consequence of harm,” George says.

Although Cagle of ACLU shares her concerns that San Francisco citizens will beryllium little safe, he says nan metropolis should clasp its estimation for having catalyzed a US-wide pushback against surveillance. San Francisco’s 2019 look nickname prohibition was followed by astir 2 twelve different cities, galore of which besides added caller oversight mechanisms for constabulary surveillance.