Baltimore May Soon Ban Facial Recognition for Everyone but Cops

After years of failed attempts to curb surveillance technologies, Baltimore is near enacting one of many nation’s most stringent bans on facial recognition. But Baltimore’s proposed ban can be very different from legal guidelines in San Francisco or Portland, Oregon: It would final for just one 12 months, police can be exempt, and sure personal makes use of of the tech would grow to be unlawful.

City councilmember Kristerfer Burnett, who launched the proposed ban, says it was formed by the nuances of Baltimore, although critics complain it might unfairly penalize, and even jail, personal residents who use the tech.

Last 12 months, Burnett launched a model of the invoice that may have banned metropolis use of facial recognition completely. When that failed, he as a substitute launched this model, with a built-in one 12 months “sunset” clause requiring council approval to be prolonged. In early June, town council voted in its favor 12-2; it now awaits signature from Mayor Brandon Scott.

“It was important to begin to have this conversation now over the next year to basically hash out what a regulatory framework could look like,” Burnett says.

The proposed regulation would set up a job power to supply common reviews on the acquisition of newly acquired surveillance instruments, describing each their price and effectiveness. Cities like New York and Pittsburgh have created similar job forces, but they’ve been derided as a “waste” as members lack sources or enforcement energy.

Burnett says the reviews are essential, as a result of a 12 months from now, Baltimore’s political panorama might look very completely different.

Since 1860, the Baltimore Police Department has been largely managed by the state, not town. The metropolis council and mayor appoint the police commissioner and set the division’s finances, but town council has no authority to ban police use of facial recognition.

However, Baltimore residents will have the opportunity to vote on returning the police division to metropolis management as early as subsequent 12 months. Mayor Scott himself supported this variation throughout his time as a metropolis councilman. The local-control measure might seem on ballots because the one-year ban is expiring, when Burnett and different privateness advocates would take pleasure in a 12 months’s examine on the consequences of a ban.

The dialog round returning the police to metropolis management reignited following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015 whereas in police custody. Then-Mayor Catherine Pugh established a job power to supply options round police reform; in 2018, the duty power released a report warning that “BPD will never be fully accountable to its residents until full control of the department is returned to the city.”

Adding to the push to revive native management had been revelations that police used social media monitoring software program and facial recognition to surveil protesters after Gray’s dying. Burnett says town wants to think about the correct makes use of of surveillance instruments “before we get to a space where [surveillance] is so pervasive that it becomes very much more difficult to unravel.” In distinction, he says, authorities is normally “much more reactive.”

Critics say the proposed ban is an instance of overreach.The police division and town’s Fraternal Order of Police oppose the measure. A police spokesperson referred WIRED to the division’s letter to town council, wherein it wrote that “rather than a prohibition against the acquisition of any new facial recognition technology, it would be more prudent to establish safeguards.”

Trade teams additionally got here out in opposition to the invoice, significantly the provisions round personal use of facial recognition. As written, the invoice not solely fines violators, it casts that violation as a prison offense, punishable by as much as 12 months in jail. That goes additional than a Portland law banning personal use of facial recognition, which made violators liable for damages and attorneys’ charges.

Groups just like the Security Industry Association argued that this might criminalize personal enterprise homeowners for, say, requiring facial verification to enter amenities, and even colleges for requiring on-line proctoring that makes use of the tech. Councilman Isaac Schleifer cited the potential criminalization as a chief concern in his “no” vote on the measure.

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