San Francisco Inadvertently Bans City Employees from Using iPhones with Face ID

BY Mahit Huilgol

Published 23 Dec 2019

San Francisco has barred its employees from using the iPhone with Face ID after banning face recognition in May. This means San Francisco has inadvertently banned city employees from using iPhones. Thankfully, the city amended law and exempted iPhones from the ban.

The law meant that iPhones with Face ID were deemed illegal even if the Face ID was turned off.

After San Francisco in May placed new controls, including a ban on facial recognition, on municipal surveillance, city employees began taking stock of what technology agencies already owned. They quickly learned that the city owned a lot of facial recognition technology — much of it in workers’ pockets.

City-issued iPhones equipped with Apple’s signature unlock feature, Face ID, were now illegal—even if the feature was turned off, says Lee Hepner, an aide to supervisor Aaron Peskin, the member of the local Board of Supervisors who spearheaded the ban.”

The law was amended after San Francisco supervisors persuaded the authorities and voted for exempting iPhone. Furthermore, the amendment allows municipal agencies to use products with Face ID as long as the other features are deemed critical and there is no viable alternative. Meanwhile, city employees are still barred from using Face ID and have to punch in passcodes. Interestingly, other cities followed suit after SF banned the use of facial technologies. Massachusetts and other cities joined the bandwagon. However, the cities are likely to amend the rules such that iPhones are exempted.

Our Take

Apparently agencies were using facial recognition technologies rampantly. It is for this reason the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will work with cities and help them with the issue. Earlier, the San Francisco Police Department was found using face-recognition without informing city officials.

[via Wired]