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San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition in police departments

Personal liberty wins a major victory on the west coast.

Your body is yours, right?  Well, in this increasingly technological age, that may not be true for long.

I don’t want this to sound like some far off, Orwellian dystopia.  It is dystopia-ish, it is Orwellian, but it certainly isn’t far off.  You see, even on that cell phone in your pocket is a major overreach of technology that cheapens our very visages.

To fully understand where this is headed, we have to think about social media, where our smartphone cameras are constantly being pointed at our faces.  These cameras are just cameras, by the software accessing these devices can be made to work in a variety of ways, not the least of which includes looking at you while you stare back at it.

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On Snapchat, the dangers are almost too easy to point out:  Their facial recognition technology has improved to near Hollywood levels, with face-morphing filters and animated cues that turn you into a cartoonish monster or a bunny-kitten-puppy amalgam straight out of a Japanese children’s cartoon.

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Snapchat has your face mapped, and who knows what rights to we gave away in the unreadably long “terms and agreements”?  And, as the use of this technology grows, so does its sophistication.

Now, as we face concerns that this exponential use of facial recognition tech could go global, San Francisco has decided to put their foot down, banning police departments from using the invasive technology.

Concerned that some new surveillance technologies may be too intrusive, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial-recognition tools by its police and other municipal departments.

The Board of Supervisors approved the Stop Secret Surveillance ordinance Tuesday, culminating a re-examination of city policy that began with the false arrest of Denise Green in 2014. Green’s Lexus was misidentified as a stolen vehicle by an automated license-plate reader. She was pulled over by police, forced out of the car, and onto her knees at gunpoint by six officers. The city spent $500,000 to settle lawsuits linked to her detention.

Since then, San Francisco officials determined flaws in the license-plate reader were just part of a wider potential for abuse with Big Brother-type surveillance capabilities. With new technologies increasingly making it possible to identify people, places, and objects, the city decided to impose a higher bar for snooping tools.

There are several other cities in California who have created similar statutes to protect their citizens’ right.

We can only hope that this sentiment spreads faster than the technology can be implemented.

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