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Minneapolis has banned its police force from using facial recognition software.

Minneapolis has voted on Friday to prohibit the application of facial recognition programmes in the police department, adding to the number of cities with local restrictions regarding this controversial software. An ordinance that outlines the ban was passed earlier in the week. There are 13 city council members. The majority of voters voted for the ban with no opposition. 

The new law will prohibit the Minneapolis Police Department from using any facial recognition technology. Minneapolis Police Department from using any facial recognition software, including software developed by Clearview AI. This company provides access to a vast collection of facial pictures, which are scraped from major social media platforms and other platforms, to police departments in the federal government as well as private companies as well as many U.S. police departments. It is known that the Minneapolis Police Department has a connection in partnership with Clearview AI, as does the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, that will not be affected by the new restrictions. 

This is a significant city decision that sparked demonstrations of racial equity across the world following the death of a Minneapolis police officer killed by George Floyd last year. Minneapolis has been caught in the process of reforming its police force since then, leading the nation in pledging to cut funding for the police force in the month of June. The city then began abandoning that pledge to implement more gradual changes in the course of the year. 

The ban on facial recognition is a targeted option to reduce the growing concerns over excessive police policing. Privacy advocates are worried that AI-powered facial recognition technologies will not only specifically target groups of colour, but the technology has been proven to be faulty for discerning faces that are not white. 

Cities across the country are increasingly considering banning the controversial technology and have imposed restrictions in a variety of different ways. In the case of Portland, Oregon, new laws that were passed in the year 2000 prohibit city agencies from using facial recognition technology but additionally prohibit private companies from using this technology within public places. Prior legislation passed in San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston prevented the use of facial recognition devices; however, it did not include a similar clause for private businesses.

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