After years of failed makes an attempt to curb surveillance applied sciences, Baltimore is near enacting one of many nation’s most stringent bans on facial recognition. However Baltimore’s proposed ban could be very totally different from legal guidelines in San Francisco or Portland, Oregon: It might final for just one yr, police could be exempt, and sure non-public makes use of of the tech would develop into unlawful.
Metropolis councilmember Kristerfer Burnett, who launched the proposed ban, says it was formed by the nuances of Baltimore, although critics complain it may unfairly penalize, and even jail, non-public residents who use the tech.
Final yr, Burnett launched a model of the invoice that may have banned metropolis use of facial recognition completely. When that failed, he as an alternative launched this model, with a built-in one yr “sundown” 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 vital to start to have this dialog now over the following yr to principally hash out what a regulatory framework may seem like,” Burnett says.
The proposed legislation would set up a job pressure to supply common experiences on the acquisition of newly acquired surveillance instruments, describing each their price and effectiveness. Cities like New York and Pittsburgh have created comparable job forces, however they’ve been derided as a “waste” as members lack assets or enforcement energy.
Burnett says the experiences are essential, as a result of a yr from now, Baltimore’s political panorama may look very totally different.
Since 1860, the Baltimore Police Division has been largely managed by the state, not town. Town council and mayor appoint the police commissioner and set the division’s finances, however the metropolis council has no authority to ban police use of facial recognition.
Nonetheless, Baltimore residents could have the chance to vote on returning the police division to metropolis management as early as subsequent yr. Mayor Scott himself supported this variation throughout his time as a metropolis councilman. The local-control measure may seem on ballots because the one-year ban is expiring, when Burnett and different privateness advocates would take pleasure in a yr’s examine on the results of a ban.
The dialog round returning the police to metropolis management reignited following the loss of life of Freddie Grey in 2015 whereas in police custody. Then-Mayor Catherine Pugh established a job pressure to supply strategies round police reform; in 2018, the duty pressure launched a report warning that “BPD won’t ever be absolutely accountable to its residents till full management of the division is returned to town.”
Including 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 Grey’s loss of life. Burnett says town wants to think about the correct makes use of of surveillance instruments “earlier than we get to an area the place [surveillance] is so pervasive that it turns into very far more tough to unravel.” In distinction, he says, authorities is normally “far 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, through which it wrote that “relatively than a prohibition in opposition to the acquisition of any new facial recognition know-how, it could be extra prudent to determine safeguards.”
Commerce teams additionally got here out in opposition to the invoice, notably the provisions round non-public use of facial recognition. As written, the invoice not solely fines violators, it casts that violation as a felony offense, punishable by as much as 12 months in jail. That goes additional than a Portland legislation banning non-public use of facial recognition, which made violators answerable for damages and attorneys’ charges.
Teams just like the Safety Trade Affiliation argued that this might criminalize non-public enterprise house owners for, say, requiring facial verification to enter services, and even faculties 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.