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Technology San Francisco loosens facial recognition ban to allow newer iPhones

00:05  23 december  2019
00:05  23 december  2019 Source:   engadget.com

The best facial recognition cameras of 2019

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San Francisco is learning first-hand about the risks of blanket bans on facial recognition . City supervisors have voted to amend a ban on facial recognition in local government to allow the use of FaceID-equipped iPhones and other devices where the technology is included, but other features are

San Francisco voted to amend its facial recognition ban to allow the use of iPhones with Apple's signature FaceID facial recognition system within the city, as well as other products with facial recognition features. The city banned city agencies from using gadgets equipped facial recognition

San Francisco is learning first-hand about the risks of blanket bans on facial recognition. City supervisors have voted to amend a ban on facial recognition in local government to allow the use of FaceID-equipped iPhones and other devices where the technology is included, but other features are considered vital and don't have alternatives. Workers aren't allowed to use the facial recognition tech (they'll have to enter passcodes on iPhones, for example), but they don't have to give up a modern handset just to take calls and answer emails.

a hand holding a cellphone

The change is mirrored in smaller towns. Wired noted that Brookline, Massachussetts recently passed a ban that exempted personal devices, while the Bay Area town of Alameda is considering similar legislation.

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San Francisco quietly amends its municipal surveillance law to allow for Apple's Face ID, though the ban on facial recognition still applies. City-issued iPhones equipped with Apple’s signature unlock feature, Face ID, were now illegal—even if the feature was turned off, says Lee Hepner, an aide to

Legislators in San Francisco have voted to ban the use of facial recognition , the first US city to do so. The emerging technology will not be allowed to be used by local agencies, such as the city’s transport authority, or law enforcement. Additionally, any plans to buy any kind of new surveillance technology

These loosened rules recognize a common problem: it's difficult to completely avoid facial recognition technology in the modern era. While you don't always have to use the tech when it's available, even lower-priced phones and computers may come with it as an option. Cities either have to find workarounds or treat certain kinds of facial recognition as different. Face ID, for instance, is a strictly on-device security measure where the ban is primarily targeted at surveillance.

As it is, the city's ban might have come just in time to avoid serious privacy headaches. The SFPD confirmed to Wired that it had started a 90-day test of a facial recognition-based mugshot search system in January 2019, or right when politicians were proposing a ban. The department disabled access once the trial expired, but it only "dismantled" the servers for it once the facial recognition ban took effect in July. Police officers could have been using facial recognition tech extensively without the public even knowing about it -- that alone could justify the ban for critics, even if some tweaks are necessary.

Wired

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