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San Francisco Becomes First Major U.S. City to Ban Facial Recognition Technology

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  • The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a new citywide ordinance banning the use of facial recognition technology by city departments.
  • The legislation passed in an 8-1 vote, making San Francisco the first city in the U.S. to block the use of the tool.
  • The board noted that the only surveillance technology no longer allowed is facial recognition, all other technology will require audits and board approval.  

The Ban of Facial Recognition Software and Technology

San Franciso’s Board of Supervisors approved a new citywide ordinance on Tuesday that prohibits the use of facial recognition technology by city departments.

The board voted 8-1, in favor of the move. The new legislation not only bans facial recognition software but will also require all city agencies to audit any existing and future surveillance technology. Additionally, if a department is trying to purchase new equipment or obtain surveillance footage from a third party, it must be approved by the Board.

Government and law enforcement have used facial recognition technology for years. Agencies that use the software say it’s an extremely helpful tool when it comes to investigating kidnappings or missing person as well as scamming crimes like drivers’ license fraud.

The legislation counteracts that though, stating that benefits for the technology do not outweigh the danger the software creates, with the ordinance mentioning concern with civil rights.

The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring. “

Arguments Against the Ban

During the same meeting, several citizens addressed Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who sponsored the ordinance, and told him about their concerns. They worried what passing the ban would mean for public safety and police surveillance.

Also opposing the ban is the nonprofit research institution, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. The institution’s Vice President, Daniel Castro, told NPR he believes the ordinance does not consider the impact facial recognition software makes.

“There are many uses of the technology that are perfectly appropriate,” Castro explained. “We want to use the technology to find missing elderly adults. We want to use it to fight sex trafficking. We want to use it to quickly identify a suspect in case of a terrorist attack. These are very reasonable uses of the technology, and so to ban it wholesale is a very extreme reaction to a technology that many people are just now beginning to understand.”

Peskin insists the legislation is not about fighting technology or the need for it, rather it is to make sure no one is taking advantage of the software.

“This is really about public oversight of surveillance technology. It does not actually stop surveillance technology, with one exception, which is facial recognition software.” Peskin said during a board meeting in early May. “And this is really about giving policymakers the information they need to safeguard these important technologies from abuse, not from their use, but their abuse.”

Responses and Reactions

Similar to San Francisco, Massachusetts recently introduced a bill that would put a temporary ban on face recognition and other surveillance systems. The State Senate Majority Leader, Cynthia Creem, has said she sees the government using facial recognition technology as essentially being watched. She also points out that research has shown the current software still has flaws, specifically when it comes to recognizing women and people of color.  

MIT published a study in 2018 where it documented the error rates in three different facial-analysis programs. The research found that when one of the programs was used to determine the gender in light skinned-males, the error rate was never higher than 0.8 percent. But when the same test was conducted for dark-skinned women, they faced error rates of over 20 percent.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will meet again at the end of May to ratify the vote, but it is expected to pass, officially making the ordinance a law.  

See what others are saying: (Vox) (Tech Crunch) (CNBC)

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Billionaire Pledges to Pay Loan Debt of This Year’s Morehouse College Graduates

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  • Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith promised to pay off the student loan debt of the 2019 graduates at Morehouse College, an all-male historically black school in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Though the exact amount of the class’ debt is still being calculated, the gift is expected to be around $40 million.
  • This is just one of Smith’s major donations in recent years.

A Generous Gift

Billionaire tech investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith said he will pay off the student debt for all graduates in Morehouse College’s class of 2019.

Smith announced the news on Sunday while delivering the commencement address at the all-male historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” he said. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

His announcement shocked the nearly 400 graduates, who reacted with cheers and applause.

One graduating student named Aaron Mitchom told the Associated Press that he had drawn up a spreadsheet to calculate how long it would take him to pay off his $200,000 in student debt. According to his math, it would take him about 25 years.

“I can delete that spreadsheet,” he told the AP after the commencement. “I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”

Brandon Manor, another graduate, told the New York Times, “Now all of a sudden, I can look at schools I might not have considered, because I am not applying with about $100,000 in undergraduate loans.”

Who is Robert F. Smith?

Smith, the founder and CEO of the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, is worth an estimated $5 billion and is the richest black man in America, according to Forbes.

The 56-year-old who originally hails from Colorado but now lives in Austin went to Cornell for his undergraduate degree and earned a B.S. in chemical engineering. Afterward, Smith earned his MBA from Columbia Business School.

He went on to work for several companies like Kraft General Foods and then Goldman Sachs, advising companies like Apple and Microsoft before founding his own investment firm.

What does this gift mean?

Smith’s pledge stunned administrators, who called it the largest single gift in the school’s history. The donation also comes at a time where student loan debt has soared to roughly $1.5 trillion, according to recent Federal Reserve data.

Morehouse President David A. Thomas called the gesture “a liberation gift,” telling CNN, “When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained.”

“(Smith’s gift) gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions.”

According to Thomas, the total amount of student debt for the class is still being calculated but the Associated Press estimated that the gift is worth about $40 million.

In return, Smith says he expects the graduating class to pay it forward to give future classes the same opportunity one day.

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” he said.

“We are enough to ensure we have all of the opportunities of the American dream, and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”

Other Major Donations

The billionaire tech executive has managed to stay under the radar for much of his career. While this major donation has thrust him into the spotlight, it is far from his first generous gift.

In 2016, he pledged a $20 million gift to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That same year, he donated $50 million to Cornell University to go towards its chemical and biomolecular engineering school, and to support black and female engineering students.

In 2017, Smith signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment by some of the world’s richest people – including Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet – who have promises to giving most of their wealth to philanthropy. In 2018, he gave $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to focus on research and care for African-American men and veterans with prostate cancer.

Before Sunday’s graduation speech, Smith had already donated $1.5 million to Morehouse for scholarships and a new park.

See what others are saying (The New York  Times) (Forbes) (Time)


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Aliens Among Us?! This Is Why SCIENTISTS Think It’s Actually Possible…

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Is it possible we’ve been visited by intelligent alien life? News outlets have often disregarded this question as ludicrous. However, that attitude may be changing.

In this video, we’ll look at why several well-respected scientists from places like NASA and Harvard believe it’s possible we may have already been visited by an intelligent alien life form.

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How the Flint Water Crisis EXPOSED a HUGE Problem in America’s Schools…

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The water crisis in Flint, Michigan served as a wakeup call about the dangers of lead poisoning for young children, but a recent report shows that schools across the nation are still failing to provide safe drinking water for millions of students, potentially exposing them to a lifetime of developmental delays and other severe health consequences.

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