San Francisco Board of Supervisors approves historic face surveillance ban and oversight law

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SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, a historic law that brings accountability and oversight to surveillance technology and makes San Francisco the first city in the United States to prohibit government use of face surveillance systems. The law was authored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

In response to today’s vote, the coalition supporting this legislation, comprised of advocates for civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the unhoused, and immigrants’ rights, released the following statement:

“We applaud the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for bringing democratic oversight to surveillance technology, and for recognizing that face surveillance is incompatible with a healthy democracy.

By passing this law, the city gave the community a seat at the table and acted decisively to protect its people from the growing danger of face surveillance, a highly invasive technology that would have radically and massively expanded the government’s power to track and control people going about their daily lives. Supported by Bay Area voters, and a broad coalition of privacy, civil rights, and racial justice groups, this powerful measure will protect the safety and civil rights of all San Franciscans who deserve to live their lives without being targeted by dangerous high-tech surveillance. In the hands of the government, face surveillance would supercharge discriminatory policing, stifle civic engagement, and entangle people with ICE.

This law sets a strong standard for public safety in the digital age. We encourage other communities to say no to face surveillance, and to put rules in place to make sure technology works for the people, not against them.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ vote comes as Oakland and Berkeley, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts are also considering a ban on government use of face surveillance.

Polling data shows that California voters overwhelmingly support laws that require public debate and a vote by lawmakers before government agencies can obtain or use surveillance technology. The same data also demonstrates that these voters strongly believe that the government should not be able to deploy face and other biometric surveillance against the public.

The coalition in support of the Stop Secret Surveillance ordinance includes the ACLU of Northern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian Law Alliance, CAIR California, the Center for Media Justice, Centro Legal De La Raza, the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, Color of Change, Data for Black Lives, DSA San Francisco, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Faith in Action Bay Area, Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Greenlining Institute, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, Indivisible San Francisco, Justice for Mario Woods, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right SF, Media Alliance, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Oakland Privacy, San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, the San Francisco Public Defender Racial Justice Committee, Secure Justice, the Tenth Amendment Center, and the Transgender Law Center.

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