Cops Fighting to Stop San Francisco From Banning Face Recognition Surveillance

Civil liberties groups have been advocating for the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, a ban on using facial recognition technology. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) has been opposing the proposal and is pushing police supporters to send emails to lawmakers demanding the bill be defeated so the city can continue to use facial recognition technology without oversight.

The SFPOA is proposing workarounds so they can continue to surveil the public, such as exemptions to use facial recognition technology. They are also proposing a one-year sunset clause, which means the ban on using facial recognition would be lifted after a year, and could only be extended if further legislative action was taken to renew the ban.

The elected city supervisor, who first introduced the proposal to ban facial recognition technology, said his office was flooded with identical emails opposing the ban. Some of the emails were left blank where names and neighborhoods of surveillance supporters were supposed to be filled in.

This is the email the police organization sent to its supporters, obtained by Gizmodo:


In the past, similar proposals to ban facial recognition technology were introduced to California’s state legislature and defeated, due in part to police opposition.

Facial recognition technology is quickly becoming a pervasive part of life and the surveillance will only become more commonplace as more people and institutions promote it. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is reportedly rushing to install facial recognition technology at airports across the US.

In the United States, most adults are in the police facial recognition database, even if they have never been associated with criminal activity, according to a Georgetown Law study.



Image adapted from: “smart city (dystopia)” by Paul Keller is licensed under CC BY 2.0