San Francisco city becomes the first major United States to ban facial recognition for use by city and police departments. That has ethicists and technologists discussing an issue that is expected to trigger a debate in more cities across the world.

With the vote of 8-1, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a regulation. This is to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology by government departments and city police.

However, the new law heads to the mayor next month for approval. “We can have better policing without becoming a police state,” said Aaron Peskin, Supervisor at San Francisco Board.


This Anti-Crime group agrees that there must be controls on facial recognition technology.

“If someone has dementia, then it will be a better way of recognizing them. Now, if there is a kidnapping, that is another option of recognizing them and save lives. If you can find someone who repeats criminal, this is the best way to stop them.”

Consumers and companies will still able to use face recognition technology in San Francisco.

The regulations do not stop private use. The president of Stop Crime SF says one of the flaws in the rule. If your cameras capture face recognition data, you will not be able to give such data to the police to use.

“I think anytime you see an organization sort of attempting to not move forward quickly with the new technology.  And think about what all the moral implications are. It is always a good thing,” said Don Heider, Executive Director of Makkula Center.

Heider is a professor of social principles at Santa Clara University. He mentions a Massachusetts Institute of Technology report which found face analysis algorithms.

Police departments in cities such as Boston, New York, and Las Vegas are already implementing the technology. However, other US cities such as Somerville and Oakland, Massachusetts are considering prohibitions.