Ban Facial Recognition Surveillance In Santa Clara County, CA
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For references and citations, the following text can also be read at cpcscc.org/face.
The Problems with Facial Recognition Surveillance
On January 9, 2020, Robert Williams, a black man from the suburbs of Detroit was arrested in his driveway in front of his wife and children for a crime he did not commit. Months earlier, another man had stolen thousands of dollars worth of watches from a store in Midtown Detroit. Facial recognition had been employed by the police department for two years without residents’ knowledge. Police used it in attempt to find the perpetrator of the theft. It told them Williams was his man. He spent 18 hours in custody before being interrogated in which he disputed the evidence against him. He paid his $1000 bond and was released, but had to retain an attorney to ultimately clear him of the wrongful arrest.
The evidence is absolutely overwhelming: government surveillance disproportionately targets the communities of color, adding to the already abundantly apparent racial bias in general policing. Surveillance by way of facial recognition technology is no different.
New surveillance technologies often rely on historical policing data for their algorithms, making them just as bias as past policing. In May 2016, ProPublica reported that a computer program labeled black defendants much more likely to reoffend as white defendants. Biased data is not the only problem, but programs also tend to have the biases of their creators built into them, espcially facial recognition. A 2019 federal study found that African American and Asian individuals are 100 times more likely to be misidentified by facial recognition.
Privacy and First Amendment Concerns
After the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department, activists took to the street to protest the brutality. Baltimore Police responded by using facial recognition to identify certain protesters while engaging in a Constituationally protected right. It is likely the same thing was done across the country this summer in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Efforts to Curb Facial Recognition Surveillance
Because of the problems outlined above with facial recognition technology, many cities, including several right here in the Bay Area, have banned its use by law enforcement. Here is a complete list of those cities and the dates the bans were passed according to Fight for the Future:
May 14, 2019: San Francisco, CA
June 27, 2019: Somerville, MA
July 16, 2019: Oakland, CA
October 16, 2019: Berkeley, CA
December 11, 2019: Brookline, MA
December 17, 2019: Alameda, CA
December 19, 2019: Northhampton, MA
January 13, 2020: Cambridge, MA
February 4, 2020: Springfield, MA
June 24, 2020: Boston, MA
August 20, 2020: Jackson, MS
September 9, 2020: Portland, ME
September 9, 2020: Portland, OR
Portland, OR’s ban is unique because not only does it prohibit the technology’s use by the government, but it also prevents the use by private corporations as well.
Other cities such as Baltimore, MD and Minneapolis, MN are also considering bans. There is no reason why every city in Santa Clara County shouldn’t also consider it.
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