San Francisco Banned Facial Recognition. Will California Follow?

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Today, my colleague Kate Conger has a dispatch from Silicon Valley, where a debate about the use of facial recognition technology has become another front in the broader fights over technology and privacy:

When San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition by the city’s police and other agencies earlier this year, it was an outlier in the United States. But now several other cities are following suit, and California is considering a limited ban on the technology.

Somerville, a city near Cambridge, Mass., passed a facial recognition ban last week. Oakland, San Francisco’s neighbor across the Bay, is on the verge of passing its own measure, which would prohibit the police and other city agencies from deploying the technology. And a bill in the California State Legislature that would ban the use of facial recognition on footage collected by police body cameras appears to be gaining traction.

The legislative forays indicate a groundswell of support for curtailing the technology, which has struggled to correctly identify women and people of color. The error rates and the pervasive, passive surveillance that facial recognition can enable are often cited as concerns motivating the bans.

“Facial recognition can be used to track our every movement, supercharge racial profiling and discrimination, target political dissidents, and control nearly every aspect of our lives,” Evan Greer, digital rights campaign director at the advocacy group Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Lawmakers are beginning to agree that this dystopian technology is dangerous.”

Somerville’s ban, like San Francisco’s, builds upon a broader agenda in the city that regulates its use of surveillance technology. Oakland’s City Council will most likely vote on its proposed ban this month, while Berkeley is mulling a ban but has not yet scheduled a vote. California’s ban for body cameras passed the Assembly in May and is currently winding its way through the Senate.

Some facial recognition companies have criticized the bans, though other technology companies have tried to pre-empt them with their own moves. Axon, one of the largest suppliers of police body cameras, announced last week that it would forbid the use of facial recognition on its devices, although it had previously made the technology a part of its road map for future business.

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• Whether Lyft and Uber drivers should be treated like employees or contractors is a question that’s been at the heart of discussions about the gig economy and the work force of the future. So behind-the-scenes talks between a few large unions and the ride-hailing giants have created deep divisions in California labor. [The New York Times]

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed his first budget. At $214.8 billion, it’s record-breaking. Here’s everything you need to know about it in roughly two minutes. [CALmatters]

A federal judge in California has ordered swift action to improve filthy conditions for migrant children being held in Texas. [The New York Times]

• A new, first-in-the-nation law requiring background checks for ammunition purchases goes into effect today. People have been stocking up. [The Wall Street Journal]

• Six months after a law meant to increase police transparency came into effect, some of California’s biggest law enforcement agencies haven’t released any of the records subject to the law’s provisions. [LAist/KPCC]

• A 2-year-old boy died from complications of E. coli and three other children were sickened in cases that officials said were linked to contact with animals at the San Diego County Fair. [The New York Times]

• California is set to become the first state in the nation to ban discrimination against natural hair. The move is meant to prevent grooming policies or dress codes that disproportionately punish black workers. [The New York Times]

• The full extent of health damage caused by wildfire smoke is still unknown. The Chico Enterprise-Record began a five-part story and podcast series exploring the impacts. [The Chico Enterprise-Record]

• Trucking is a quiet, lonely world. But increasing numbers of Sikh drivers are changing life on America’s highways. [The Los Angeles Times]

Tens of thousands of people turned out for San Francisco’s Pride parade. It celebrated a legacy of activism and resistance — and, perhaps fittingly, drew protesters and activists who held signs denouncing “corporate domination.” Anti-police demonstrators also briefly shut down the parade. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

• If you missed it, here’s a look at how advocates are trying to keep L.G.B.T.Q. communities alive in a swiftly changing San Francisco. [The New York Times]

• “You register as a man or woman and that’s it. There are no questions asked.” The annual 100-mile Western States Endurance Run enacted a new policy surrounding trans runners. [KQED]

Susan Bernard, an actress and the keeper of her father’s photographic legacy, has died. Ms. Bernard wrote books featuring iconic photographs by her father, who was known as Bernard of Hollywood, including the most famous image of Marilyn Monroe. [The New York Times]

I missed Negroni week, which appears to have been celebrated heartily at many of California’s finest drinking establishments. That was my bad.

To make it up to you, here’s a piece tracing the rise of the Negroni over its century of existence, from relatively obscure Italian tipple, to the refreshment of choice for “‘La Dolce Vita’ types of the 1950s and ’60s,” to the contemporary cocktail of those who want to drink something stronger — and, somehow, less controversial — than an Aperol Spritz.

Read to the end for recipes. (Although, as the story says, Negronis are known to be tough to mess up.)

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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