San Francisco may open a new office to prevent 'reckless' tech rollouts

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco has a history of dealing with out-of-control tech deployments -- just ask people who had to wade through piles of scooters for months until the city started the permit process. Companies might have to be more careful going forward, however. Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee has revealed a proposal to establish an Office of Emerging Technology that could rein in the more 'reckless' impulses of tech firms. It would help companies obtain permits and licenses from appropriate departments, but it would also gauge the potential effects of a rollout and shut down projects that could harm privacy, safety and security.

It would likewise keep a watch out for the impact of automation on workers. Matching legislation, meanwhile, would let the office recommend fines for those companies that ignore the permit process.

The public will have 30 days to comment on the measure establishing the Office before it goes to a Board of Supervisors vote. You wouldn't have to wait long to see the Office in action if it passes -- it could open as soon as January.

This might not thrill tech startups who want to put their technology in the field quickly. They might not back away, but they may take longer to deploy their offerings. Not that residents will necessarily complain. Tech giants have a long history of introducing products and features without considering the social impact. This would at least put the brakes on those introductions that would hurt San Franciscans in a tangible way.