San Francisco

Santa Clara County Uses Facial Recognition Tech Without a Policy in Place

A week ago, San Francisco became the first city in America to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and other city agencies. But in the South Bay, the sheriff continues to use it in limited cases.

Some are now saying the Santa Clara County Sheriff''s Office needs a formal policy about when or when not to use it.

A proposed policy has been drafted but not formally approved, and it came up again Tuesday. The county Board of Supervisors was expected to adopt the policy at Tuesday’s meeting, but it pushed the vote back to a later date.

"Here in Santa Clara County, we have very limited use of facial recognition technology," county Supervisor Joe Simitain said. "The sheriff uses it essentially as a match for mug shots, static photos. It’s a pretty narrow use."

The sheriff's office essentially uses it to identify criminals in an investigation. For instance, detectives can use the technology to freeze a frame from surveillance video of a burglary suspect to help identify him.

The concern is there is no policy in place to make sure detectives are following proper protocols.

So the county drafted a policy, with direction and guidelines.

"We have over 2 million people in Santa Clara County," Simitian said. "We owe them a right to privacy, need to respect their due process. We can use this technology available in a careful and narrowly crafted way."

Critics say no facial recognition technology should ever be used.

"No, I don’t think they should do that," resident Unique Perry said. "That’s an invasion of privacy, for sure."

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