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Recode Daily: San Francisco cracks down on facial recognition

Plus: a top federal labor agency says Uber drivers aren’t employees, Russian hackers accessed Florida voting databases, and media giants start splitting up their streaming empires.

A surveillance camera hanging over a man on a stage in front of a backdrop reading “Huawei.”
San Francisco is blocking any city government use of facial surveillance technology.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

San Francisco passed a historic ban on city use of facial recognition. The “Stop Secret Surveillance” ordinance, which passed in an 8-1 vote on Tuesday, will not only ban city agencies from buying facial recognition tech but force them to get city approval before purchasing any new surveillance technology such as license plate readers or drones.

In dozens of other cities in the US, facial recognition technology is used by local police departments to surveil and track suspected criminals. Critics say the tools expand widespread government surveillance and reinforce police bias. The ban doesn’t affect the private sector — so the many San Franciscans who carry facial surveillance in their pocket with their iPhones won’t see any changes to such consumer technology. But stopping the police from using these tools is a big move — and one that’s already influencing other cities across the country to do the same.
[Shirin Ghaffary / Recode]

The National Labor Relations Board said that Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees. In a memo released Tuesday, the NLRB stated that Uber drivers qualify as independent workers because they’re given “significant entrepreneurial opportunity by virtue of their near complete control of their cars and work schedules, together with freedom to choose log-in locations and to work for competitors of Uber.” As The Verge’s Andrew Hawkins writes, this means “drivers will have a much harder time trying to form a union, file labor complaints, or seek protections from the federal government.”

It’s a setback for many drivers and labor advocates who have been fighting for reclassification as employees — and a win for Uber, whose business model hinges on not being liable to provide benefits such as health care to its drivers.
[Andrew J. Hawkins / The Verge]

Russian hackers accessed voter databases in two Florida counties leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed Tuesday. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security said they “did not detect any adversary activity that impacted vote counts or disrupted electoral processes” in the election, however, according to a statement released by the agencies. The governor said he couldn’t release further details about which counties were affected because he signed an agreement with the FBI. “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a [non]disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said in a news conference. The reference to Russian hackers targeting voting databases in Florida was first mentioned in the Mueller report, but DeSantis said it was only recently confirmed by DHS and the FBI.
[Brendan Farrington / Associated Press]

What’s going on with the Hulu/Comcast/Netflix divorce? “[G]iant media companies are consolidating and getting bigger so they can take on the giant tech companies. The result for consumers: You’re going to need to work harder to find your favorite TV shows,” writes Peter Kafka in an explainer on the complex string of interconnected breakups in the media world. The latest development is that Comcast announced on Tuesday that its NBCUniversal will break away from Hulu, the streaming video service, over the next few years. That means that in due time (three years, to be exact), NBCUniversal can pull its shows from Hulu, including popular hits like Saturday Night Live, and put them on its own streaming service.
[Peter Kafka / Recode]

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