[REGIONAL NEWS] Cities ban government use of facial recognition

Three American cities have now banned the use of facial recognition technology in local government amid concerns it’s inaccurate and biased

By Graham Vyse | Governing

Oakland, Calif., last week became the third city in America to ban the use of facial recognition technology in local government, following prohibitions enacted earlier this year in San Francisco and Somerville, Mass. Berkeley, Calif., is also weighing a ban.

The Oakland City Council voted for the ban unanimously on the grounds that the software — used by law enforcement elsewhere in the country — is often inaccurate, especially when identifying people who aren’t white men. “Not only does the technology pose the risk that people will be misidentified as wanted criminals,” says Council President Rebecca Kaplan, “but it’s disproportionately black people and women who are misidentified.”

Studies support Kaplan’s claims. Last year, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University found both “skin-type and gender biases” in facial recognition programs used by major technology companies. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that the software used by Amazon “incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress, identifying them as other people who have been arrested for a crime.”


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