California blocks police body cameras from using facial recognition


California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday signed a bill blocking law enforcement from using facial recognition technology in body cameras.

The bill, AB 1215, bars police from installing the software on their cameras through Jan. 1, 2023.

California is now the largest state to take steps to limit police use of the technology, following New Hampshire and Oregon.

{mosads}San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., already had citywide bans on the use of facial recognition technology — which scans faces for the purposes of identifying individuals — by police or city agencies.

Opponents of law enforcement using facial recognition technology argue it expands unwarranted surveillance and exacerbates racial discrimination because of a tendency to be inaccurate, especially for people of color.

“With this law, California has acted boldly to stem the expansion of a surveillance state that presents an unprecedented threat to our rights and liberties,” Matt Cagle, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said in a statement.

“Face-scanning police body cameras have no place on our streets, where they can be used for dragnet and discriminatory surveillance of people going about their private lives, including their locations and personal associations. We look forward to building on this victory and urge other legislatures to follow suit.”

Law enforcement groups have long opposed AB 1215, saying it blocks agencies from using the best technology available to keep communities safe. 

“Prohibiting the use of biometric surveillance systems severely hinders law enforcement’s ability to identify and detain suspects of criminal activity,” the California Police Chiefs Association said during debate over the bill in September.

“These systems compare hundreds of thousands of mug shots with images captured by officer cameras — saving time and resources.”

The California Peace Officers’ Association included the bill on its list of proposed laws that “threatens the future of effective policing and crime reduction.”

California’s step to regulate the rapidly developing technology comes as Congress develops legislation that would curb or even halt its implementation.

There is currently no federal law dictating when, how, where or why facial recognition technology can be used.

Tags California facial recognition Gavin Newsom police body cameras

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