Fight for the Future


Berkeley, CA becomes fourth US city to ban facial recognition

Posted 00:06 EDT on October 16, 2019
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Berkeley, CA just became the fourth city in the United States to pass an outright ban on all government use of facial recognition surveillance technology, after a unanimous city council vote on Tuesday. 

“The epidemic spread of facial recognition is a human rights crisis,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), “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.”

The victory in Berkeley comes amid growing backlash to facial recognition surveillance that has been spreading across the country. Last month Fight for the Future launched our BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, along with  an interactive map showing where in the US facial recognition surveillance is being used, and also where there are local and state efforts to ban it. San Francisco, Somerville, MA, and Oakland, CA, were the first cities in the country to ban the technology. A number of other cities are poised to follow suit, and bills to halt current use of the tech are moving in Massachusetts,  Michigan, and New York legislatures. In Congress, there is growing bipartisan agreement to address the issue, but it could easily stall under pressure from law enforcement and big tech.

Fight for the Future has mobilized tens of thousands of people to contact their lawmakers through our BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, which has been endorsed by more than 30 major grassroots civil rights organizations including Greenpeace, Color of Change, Daily Kos, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, MoveOn, and Free Press. We launched a separate campaign, supported by prominent musicians like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Amanda Palmer calling on major music festivals to commit to not using facial recognition at their events. In a month we’ve succeeded in securing commitments from many of the world’s largest music festivals, including SXSW, Coachella, and Bonnaroo.

Fight for the Future opposes attempts by the tech industry (including Amazon)  and law enforcement to pressure Congress to pass an industry-friendly “regulatory framework” for facial recognition that would allow this dangerous technology to spread quickly with minimal restrictions intended to assuage public opposition. But we support narrower efforts to ban or restrict specifically egregious uses of this surveillance, such as a bill introduced recently to ban the use of facial recognition in public housing. For more on our position, read our op-ed in Buzzfeed News: “Don’t regulate facial recognition. Ban it.”

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