Oakland, Calif., Nearing Ban on Facial Recognition Tech

If the it does pass, Oakland will be either the second or third city in the nation to ban its departments from using the technology. San Francisco already banned the equipment, and Berkeley is voting July 9th.

by Ali Tadayon, The Mercury News / June 27, 2019

(TNS) — An ordinance barring the city from using facial recognition technology — widely criticized for its impact on civil rights — will be up for a vote by the City Council on July 16.

The ordinance is likely to pass since the council’s Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to put it on the consent calendar for July 16 along with other items considered so routine they’re typically approved on one motion. If it does pass, Oakland will be either the second or third city in the nation to ban its departments from using the technology; San Francisco was the first U.S. city to prohibit the facial recognition technology in May, and the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on a facial recognition ban July 9.

Council member Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the ordinance, said the technology is flawed, and cited a 2008 report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that found the technology disproportionately misidentifies people of color.

“What that means in real life is the risk of someone being wrongly believed to being a wanted criminal, and that could lead to them being arrested, being shot and all kinds of negative interactions that could worsen our community-police relations and put people in danger,” Kaplan said at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Neither police nor any other city department currently use “real-time” facial recognition technology, Oakland police research and planning legislation manager Bruce Stoffmacher said at the meeting, which matches images to mugshot databases as they are taken. Stoffmacher urged the city council to consider a “limited” ban, which would still allow police to use the technology for investigations by linking images from crime scenes with mugshot repositories.

Kaplan however, argued against a limited ban, at least until the technology is updated such that racial disparities no longer exist. The other council members on the committee agreed.

©2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs