Following the news that San Francisco plans to ban the use of facial recognition technology by municipal agencies.
Rena Bhattacharyya, Research Director at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view on San Francisco’s vote in favor of the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance:
“The move is particularly noteworthy because it originates in a part of the US otherwise known for embracing high tech and because it restricts the use of artificial intelligence for public safety, widely considered a top use case for facial recognition technology.
“Opponents of the use of facial recognition cite concerns over individual privacy. It’s no surprise that individuals are concerned about the amount of information that is being compiled about them. Greater public awareness of the details being collected by applications such as Facebook, and how that information is being disseminated, has alarmed many individuals and contributed to distrust of new information-gathering technologies.
“Opponents are also concerned about recent reports that facial recognition models are biased or prone to inaccuracies. Given the sensitive nature of how facial recognition could potentially be used – and misused – by governmental organizations, it makes sense to wait until models improve before the technology is widely deployed.
“Facial recognition is coming to market during a period when the public is disgusted with the way social media has been using and sharing their data. Similarly, there has been a public outcry against the unequal treatment of women in the workplace and of minorities by law enforcement. As a result, the technology appears to be a lightning rod for contempt, exemplifying the biases and inequalities still prevalent in our society.
“We are still in the very early stages of its adoption, and as with all emerging technologies, there will be important issues that must be addressed before moving ahead. For the time being, many communities are likely to err on the side of caution, restricting the technology’s use until its performance is more consistent and society has set norms regarding acceptable use.”