Updated Feb 12, 2021 - News

Minneapolis bans police from using facial recognition tech

Illustration of a man whose face is obscured by digital glitches.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This piece has been updated to reflect that the ordinance was passed by Minneapolis City Council.

The Minneapolis City Council has banned MPD and other city departments from using facial recognition technology.

Why it matters: Opponents of the technology say it invades privacy, allows police to surveil activists and is much less accurate in identifying women and people of color, which leads to false arrests.

State of play: Minneapolis will join Los Angeles, Boston, Portland, Ore., and other cities in banning the technology.

The other side: MPD and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association declined to comment. Drake Jamali, government relations manager for the Security Industry Association that represents the companies that make the technology, weighed in during a public hearing this week.

  • "(This) ordinance strips away ... a useful tool for law enforcement in fighting identity fraud, criminal activity, thwarting malicious attacks against the public, solving hate crimes against LGBTQ community, cracking cold cases and course, rescuing over 15,000 children from human sex trafficking in just the past couple of years," Jamali said.

Yes, but: Chris Weyland, a cyber security consultant, said the technology moves us closer to an Orwellian surveillance society.

  • "This technology is simply not ready to be used," he told the committee. "It has significant racial biases that seem pre-built into the software itself. And these biases can be very difficult and time consuming to ferret out."

Of note: The ban does not extend to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.


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