Baltimore is now considering the nation’s most restrictive ban on facial recognition technology. Passed on May 27 by the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Government Operations, the proposed ordinance would not just prevent the city government from acquiring facial recognition technology, but also ban most commercial uses, thereby cutting off city businesses, workers, and residents from a wide range of beneficial applications.
As Ashley Johnson writes in The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore’s proposed ordinance contains a few carve outs that would allow facial recognition to be used for unlocking access to a physical location or electronic device, but it would limit nearly every other use of the technology. This includes many applications designed to increase public safety and security, improve accessibility for people with disabilities and create more convenient experiences for consumers. Facial recognition can be used in several other ways. From finding missing persons and catching identity thieves to replacing library cards, facial recognition technologies open many doors to streamlining existing processes.
Baltimore’s proposal would also impede businesses’ ability to provide innovative new services at a time when the economy is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.