The city of Minneapolis moved to approve the ban on facial recognition software used for its police department last Friday, February 12, 2021. According to Tech Crunch, a total of 13 members voted in favor of the facial recognition software ban, with all members of the city council voicing approval.
The Guardian states the city initiative comes in support of the movement towards preventing racial minorities and women from being wrongly profiled, given that most of these artificial intelligence-powered software bear flaws when it comes to identification.
The ban comes in the wake of the George Floyd controversy, where Minneapolis police knelt on the neck of the man for more than eight minutes, reports The Guadian. This incident led to George Floyd’s death, sparking a nationwide and even worldwide reckoning in the last summer alone.
The death of Floyd also sparked a wider movement, with advocates and activists alike calling to defund the police. Despite turning to reforms rather than defunding its police, Tech Crunch states that the city of Minneapolis has turned to ban facial recognition software to stop the harsh and aggressive actions taken by the police.
In a statement by council member Steve Fletcher to the Star Tribune last January, he said, “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.”
Among the flaws being recognized by experts in the field include biases against age, race, and ethnicity, states The Verge. As such, Tech Crunch states that privacy advocates fear that artificial intelligence-powered facial recognition software would further the discrimination against people of color.
Following the approval of the Minneapolis City Council last Friday, programs that leverage the use of artificial intelligence in facial recognition would no longer be allowed, including the software made by Clearview AI.
The police chief, however, Medaria Arradondo said to the Star Tribune that the approval of the city council was made without his approval. Arradondo reportedly believes that such systems can be “utilized in accordance with data privacy and other citizen legal protections.”
Clearview AI is a company embroiled in the mining and selling of images to various agencies and organizations, including federal networks and private companies. Prior to the ban, The Verge states that the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, maintained a relationship with Clearview AI.
With the ban of facial recognition systems in the city, Minneapolis now joins the likes of Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston in making strides against the prevention of using such technology, states Tech Crunch.