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San Francisco is the first US city to ban facial recognition - Webroot response

May 2019 by Webroot

Following the news that San Francisco has become the first city to ban the use of facial recognition in local agencies, such as law enforcement, see a comment below from Matthew Aldridge, Senior Solution Architect at Webroot, who believes that while the technology can work well, the risk of biometric data being stolen is too great a risk for it to be deployed worldwide:

“It is great to see San Francisco leading the way on this debate. We’ll see in time whether this course of action is the best one, but it is important that this discussion is ongoing with all legislators. There are many factors to consider here, ranging from privacy concerns for the many to the detection of the wrongdoings of the few. In this case it seems that the concerns of the many have prevailed.

There are however legitimate applications from law enforcement and other similar agencies where face recognition technology could greatly reduce policing costs and increase the chances of successful prosecutions in certain cases. In these situations it should only be perpetrators of crime who have their biometrics stored in this way. There is a temptation in mass surveillance to build a profile on every unique person detected, track their movements and categorise them into behaviour groups. This type of approach is being taken for example in China, where the state is able to not only do this, but to map the profiles to the identities of the individual citizens concerned, raising questions about how and why this data is being used.

Current facial recognition technology can work well, but is far from perfect. Despite its shortcomings, it demonstrates its value by reducing the workload of investigators, effectively augmenting their role. Facial recognition for personal use - such as tagging photos and authenticating access to your smartphone - is a very different application and should not be confused with mass surveillance at city and state level. There is a real chance of that biometric data being leaked, stolen or hacked and it is the associated privacy and human rights risks of the technology that we must continue to address through ongoing legislation combined with improved technical controls.”




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