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Minneapolis prohibits use of facial recognition software by its police department

Minneapolis prohibits use of facial recognition software by its police department


The technology has been found to have racial, age, and ethnic biases

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on Friday to approve an ordinance banning the use of facial recognition software by its police department and other city agencies, the Star Tribune reported. The ban adds Minneapolis to the list of US cities moving to limit or end the use of such technology by its law enforcement officers and city employees.

But Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement that the ban was created without feedback from him, and that he believes it’s possible for facial recognition technology to be “utilized in accordance with data privacy and other citizen legal protections,” according to the Star Tribune. Facial recognition software has been found to have age, race, and ethnic biases, and privacy advocates have raised concerns about its use by law enforcement. Minneapolis’ ordinance created an appeals process allowing city agencies to request exemptions under some circumstances.

Minneapolis was the site of huge public protests last summer after one of its police officers killed George Floyd during an arrest in May. The city council voted to disband its police department last June, but ended up reducing the department’s 2021 budget by less than 5 percent.

Software made by Clearview AI —the controversial firm that has a database of some 3 billion images scraped from social media and other websites— would be included under Minneapolis’ facial recognition ban. BuzzFeed News reported last year that Minneapolis was one of the police departments that had access to Clearview’s software. Clearview also has contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security.

Other cities have also implemented bans on facial recognition software, with Portland blocking both public and private use of the technology. BostonSan Franciscoand Oakland have also passed laws prohibiting public institutions from using facial recognition, but Portland was the first to prohibit private use.