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Somerville bans facial recognition in public

Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman)

The city of Somerville in the US state of Massachusetts followed in the footsteps of San Francisco and outright banned the use of facial recognition technology (opens in new tab) by city institutions.

This Thursday night, Somerville’s City Council passed the ‘Face Surveillance Full Ban Ordinance’ bill, which forbids ‘any department, agency, bureau and/or subordinate division of the City of Somerville’, to use facial recognition software in public spaces.

Somerville describes facial recognition software as ‘an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying an individual, capturing information about an individual, based on the physical characteristics of an individual’s face.’

It seems as if San Francisco is kicking off a trend.

“I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators,” Aaron Peskin, the city supervisor who sponsored the bill told the New York Times (opens in new tab). “We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here.”

Facial recognition may be an interesting technology, but it raises many ethical and moral questions. The technology itself is not banned and can still be developed. However, cities across the States are deciding not to try and regulate the use of facial recognition tech in public, but to simply ban it.

Oakland, California, could be the next in line, as this city will be voting on a similar ordinance next month.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.