The Madison Common Council voted at a meeting Tuesday to ban the Madison Police Department from using facial recognition technology following an influx of public comment.
The council spent a majority of the meeting on Item 76, the creation of section 23.63 of the Madison General Ordinances establishing a ban on the use of face surveillance technology for the city agencies, which includes MPD.
This item lasted two hours and 57 minutes and ended with a 17–2 vote prohibiting city agencies, departments and divisions from using facial recognition technology or “information derived from a face surveillance system” with a few exceptions.
One exception is the use of facial recognition technology to identify and locate missing children or victims of human trafficking, according to the Government Technology website.
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Registrant Amy Owen spoke in support of this ban and said it is the right choice for Madison.
“Supporting it is aligned with the goal of ending our community’s racial disparities, arrests and incarcerations,” Owen said. “These technologies have pretty well established and serious flaws in their capacity to accurately identify Black and Brown faces, especially for women.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, facial recognition systems are built on computer programs which analyze images of human faces to identify them and can be used for general surveillance in combination with public video cameras. These systems can be used in a passive way which doesn’t require the knowledge, consent or participation of the subject, according to the ACLU.
Registrant Jeremy Ryan called for the implementation of the second proposal and only in some situations.
“Let’s go back to 9/11, a time when, hopefully, Satya wasn’t so salty, and one thing we saw in our nation is we all used national security to sign away pretty much all of our rights and that mentality still continues to this day,” Ryan said. “This has to be limited to very particular situations.”
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An Appeal of Plan Commission action on Conditional Use request for 2219 Monroe Street was moved to the next meeting due to the lengthy meeting.
In addition to these items, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis was awarded the 14th Annual Jeffrey Clay Erlanger Civility in Public Discourse Award, amendments were made to the City of Madison Official Map, the Mayor and City Clerk signed an agreement to provide security services in Parking Utility facilities and Mayoral Emergency Order #2 was confirmed.
The next Common Council meeting is set to take place Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.