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San Francisco becomes first major U.S. city to ban facial recognition tech

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized the first ban in a major U.S. city for the use of facial recognition technology by police and municipal agencies.

Why it matters, according to Axios' Kaveh Waddell: This will be the strongest oversight of government facial recognition in the U.S., and it could set the pace for other cities considering similar measures.

The big picture: The technology is used for police investigations across the country — though not currently in San Francisco — but critics say it's too inaccurate and can be abused. “The thrust of this legislation is not to get rid of surveillance technology. It’s to let the government and the public know how that technology is used," said supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced the bill.

Details: The Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance bill is twofold:

  1. It bans face recognition tech by the city government.
  2. It requires departments that want to use the technology to first submit proposals and post public notices.

But, but, but: Federal law enforcement is exempt, so airport authorities like TSA would be unaffected by the measure.

Go deeper: The facial recognition face-off