Ban on facial recognition technology advances in Minneapolis

Published 4:20 pm Friday, January 22, 2021

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MINNEAPOLIS — A proposal to ban the use of facial recognition technology by Minneapolis police and other city departments is advancing.

The technology has raised concerns by some who worry it could be a dangerous step toward a surveillance state where people’s movements are tracked the moment they leave their homes.

The technology uses machine learning algorithms to automatically detect human faces from surveillance cameras, social media and other sources and attempts to match the images with a countywide mug shot database.

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“If we have cameras all over the city tracking in real time, and keeping a record in real time of where everybody goes, that feels dystopian to me and that feels like it’s open for abuse,” said City Council member Steve Fletcher, a proponent of the proposed ordinance.

A council committee advanced the measure Thursday which will go to the full council Feb. 12. If it were to pass, Minneapolis would join a small, but growing number of cities that have banned the technology, including Los Angeles, Boston and Portland, Ore., the Star Tribune reported.

Law enforcement has defended the technology as an important a tool and that even a grainy image captured on a security camera or social-media account can lead investigators to a suspect who might otherwise have gone undetected.