Berkeley Becomes Fourth U.S. City To Ban Face Recognition In Unanimous Vote

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Note:  This article contains a false propaganda statement about China interning ‘an estimated one million Uighurs’. This anti-Chinese propaganda has been shown to be false in many articles in the independent media. The source of the claim is a CIA-backed ‘monitoring’ group that has no legitimacy. One of our readers pointed out this falsehood in the article (see comments below) so we want to highlight it in a note at the beginning. This claim is part of the “Great Power Conflict” which is the center of US national security strategy. We must all be very careful when we are told anything about China, Russia and other ‘enemies’ of US foreign policy. US national security strategy is reflected in the US media, sometimes even in independent media outlets, as well as by members of both Wall Street and war parties in Congress. KZ

Berkeley, California became the fourth U.S. city to pass a ban on all government use of facial recognition technology on Tuesday night following a unanimous yes vote by the City Council.

Two other cities in the state, Oakland and San Francisco, have already passed their own bans on government use of facial recognition tech, while Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill banning its use on police body cams for several years. Somerville, Massachusetts, also passed a similar law this summer.

In a letter proposing the change to the city’s municipal code recorded in the meeting’s agenda, Berkeley councilmembers Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila wrote that the potential use of face recognition to track persons en masse would be an egregious violation of the Fourth Amendment. They also wrote that the technology differs from stationary surveillance cameras by “[eliminating] the human and judicial element behind the existing warrant system,” in which government officials have to demonstrate that surveillance is both constitutional and sufficiently narrow to protect the rights of those targeted.

“Due to the inherent dragnet nature of facial recognition technology, governments cannot reasonably support by oath or affirmation the particular persons or things to be seized,” the councilmembers wrote. “The programmatic automation of surveillance fundamentally undermines the community’s liberty.” They also pointed to a recent editorial by Secure Justice executive director Brian Hofer and ACLU attorney Matt Cagle that it took San Francisco decades to compile intelligence files on over 100,000 people by 1973, whereas face recognition could enable them to “stockpile information on 100,000 residents in a few hours.”

The dystopian potential of facial recognition technology has already been demonstrated in China, where the government has employed the method as it swept an estimated million members of the Uighur minority into concentration camps and recently implemented rules mandating face scans for those signing up for internet or getting a new phone number. Meanwhile, research has shown the technology is also indiscriminate: 28 members of Congress were misidentified as criminals in one test, while Amazon’s Rekognition software has reportedly shown serious racial and gender bias. (Despite pitching it to cops and federal immigration authorities, Amazon has shown a disturbing lack of concern for how Rekognition could be abused by customers beyond some handwavey references to its terms of service.)

“The epidemic spread of facial recognition is a human rights crisis,” Evan Greer, deputy director of pro-privacy and anti-censorship group Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “But we still have a chance to draw a line in the sand. The local advocates and lawmakers in Berkeley who passed this ban are showing us the way. Our surveillance nightmares are not inevitable. We’re fighting to ban government use of facial recognition everywhere.”

  • emernel

    Are you people that naive. Once a security establishment (police etc) have a tool they use it. The city council can say whatever they want but they will be ignored, the technology will be used clandestinely. Count on it.

  • Antony C. Black

    I was going to post this article to social media…that is until I saw the egregious propaganda statement about China interning ‘an estimated one million Uighurs’. This blatant piece of anti-Chinese propaganda has been definitively deconstructed in many articles across the independent media. The claim is, essentially, by a CIA-backed ‘monitoring’ group that has absolutely no legitimacy. That Popular Resistance would regurgitate such transparent US agit-prop is regrettable in the extreme. You can do better than this PR.

  • kevinzeese

    Thanks for pointing that out. We agree with your analysis. I am going to add a Note at the top of the article pointing out that inaccuaracy.

  • Antony C. Black

    Cheers, Kevin