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Minneapolis a step closer to banning facial recognition technology

There are concerns about it leading to a surveillance state, and that it could harm disadvantaged communities.

Minneapolis has taken a step towards a measure that would ban the city from obtaining and using, including via a third party, facial recognition technology.

An ordinance that would prevent city police or other city departments using the tech, which automatically detects human faces from surveillance cameras and social media, was approved in the city's Public Health and Safety Committee by a unanimous vote Thursday.

It will be sent to another committee, before eventually making its way to the full council for a final vote.

In a report prepared for councilors, council member Steve Fletcher raised several concerns with the technology.

One of the main concerns is that the tech "has been shown to be less accurate in identifying people of color and women," and implementing it has the potential "to further harm already disadvantaged communities through incorrect identifications."

"Facial recognition technology also has the potential to be used to increase surveillance of communities of color," the report from Fletcher notes. "This would further disproportionately harm communities that historically have faced elevated levels of policing and harassment."

At Thursday's hearing, Fletcher also raised concerns about privacy infringement, saying the use of the software coupled with widespread surveillance cameras "feels dystopian to me and that feels like it's open for abuse."

Several cities in the U.S. have already enacted similar bans, but the Star Tribune notes that Minneapolis' ban wouldn't apply to outside law enforcement agencies such as the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, or private businesses.

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