Imagine if the Apple iPhone was banned from a major west coast city in Apple's home state. With all apologies to Alanis, it would be ironic, don't you think? Wired reports
) that back in May the city of San Francisco updated its rules against municipal surveillance. Included in these new rules was a ban on the use of facial recognition systems by the city. In fact, much of the facial recognition technology owned by San Francisco was in the pockets of municipal workers who carried iPhones given to them by the city. And since the ban was put into place, these municipal workers were essentially breaking the law whenever they carried an iPhone in their pockets even if Face ID was turned off.
Other cities that are now passing similar laws are being sure to exempt the iPhone from any ban. For example, the city of Brookline, Massachusetts passed a facial recognition ban last week that excludes personal devices. This allows city workers to carry an iPhone with Face ID, and also covers the photo tagging feature on Facebook. Matt Cagle, an attorney at the ACLU of Northern California who is working with cities says, "Each city is going to do it in their own way. There are going to be some devices that have [facial recognition] built-in and they’re trying to figure out how to deal with that."
Last week, San Francisco supervisors amended the law to allow the use in the city of iPhone models sporting Face ID. Municipal agencies in San Francisco are now allowed to purchase Face ID enabled iPhones for employees under certain conditions; other features of the device must be considered "critically necessary," and there must be no "viable alternatives." That doesn't mean that city workers can use Face ID on these devices. Apple iPhones handed out by the city of San Francisco to city employees still must have Face ID disabled forcing users to employ a passcode to unlock their handset.
As more cities start to disallow facial recognition, new laws are going to have to be written in a manner that distinguishes personal devices with facial recognition given to city employees from the use of such technology by police departments and other law enforcement organizations.
In addition to the iPhone X and both the 2018 and 2019 iPhone models, the Pixel 4 series also includes a secure facial recognition system. Those phones would also be included in any ban although we should point out that most cities and municipalities tend to equip their employees with an iPhone.