Baltimore may soon ban facial recognition for everyone but cops

after years of Failed tries to encirclement Monitoring techniquesBaltimore is about to enact one of the strictest bans in the country face recognition. But the proposed Baltimore ban would be very different from Laws in San Francisco or Portland, Oregon: They will only last for one year, police will be exempt, and some private uses of technology will become illegal.

City Councilman Christopher Burnett, who introduced the proposed ban, says it was shaped by Baltimore’s nuances, though critics complain it could unfairly punish, or even imprison, ordinary citizens who use the technology.

Last year, Burnett introduced a version of the bill that would have permanently banned the city’s use of facial recognition. When that failed, he instead introduced this version, with a “sunset” clause incorporated into one year requiring Board approval to be extended. In early June, the city council voted in favor of it 12-2; He is now awaiting Mayor Brandon Scott’s signature.

“It was important to start having this conversation now over the next year to make clear what the regulatory framework might look like,” Burnett says.

The proposed law would create a task force to produce regular reports on the purchase of newly acquired monitoring tools, describing their cost and effectiveness. Cities like New York and Pittsburgh have I created similar The work teams, but they were mocked as “waste” Where members lack the resources or enforcement authority.

Burnett says the reports matter, because a year from now, the political landscape in Baltimore may look very different.

Since 1860, the Baltimore Police Department has been under the control of the state, not the city. The city council and mayor appoint the police commissioner and set the department’s budget, but the city council does not have the power to prohibit the use of facial recognition by the police.

However, residents of Baltimore He will have a chance To vote on returning the police department to control of the city early next year. Mayor Scott himself supported This changed during his tenure as a City Council member. The procedure for domestic censorship of ballots could emerge as the one-year ban expires, when Burnett and other privacy advocates benefit from a year-long study on the effects of the ban.

There has been talk about bringing the police back into control of the city Freddy Gray dies In 2015 while in police custody. Then-Mayor Catherine Pugh set up a task force to make suggestions on police reform. In 2018, the task force Report released He warned that “the Personnel Affairs Department will never be fully accountable to its residents until full control of the department is returned to the city.”

What added to the pressure to restore local control was the information used by the police Social Media Monitoring facial recognition software to monitor the protesters After Gray’s death. Burnett says the city needs to consider appropriate uses of monitoring tools “before we get to a place where [surveillance] So pervasive that it becomes very difficult to unravel.” In contrast, he says, government is usually “more reactive.”

Critics say the proposed ban is an example of abuse, with the police department and the city’s police fraternal order opposing the measure. A police spokesperson referred WIRED to the department’s letter to the city council, in which it wrote that “instead of banning the acquisition of any new facial recognition technology, it would be wise to put in place safeguards.”

Trade groups have also opposed the bill, particularly provisions on the private use of facial recognition. As written, the bill not only criminalizes violators, but also makes this violation a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment for up to 12 months. This goes further than a Portland Law Banning private use of facial recognition, leaving violators liable for damages and attorneys’ fees

Groups such as the Security Industry Association have argued that this could criminalize private business owners, for example, for requiring face verification to enter facilities, or even schools to request online monitoring that uses the technology. Council member Isaac Schleifer cited potential criminalization as a major concern in a “no” vote on the measure.

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