California Assembly moves to ban facial recognition in police body cameras

California Assembly moves to ban facial recognition in police body cameras

The California State Assembly has approved a proposal to ban the use of facial recognition and biometric scanners in body cameras by law enforcement in the state. Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) sponsored AB 1215, which is intended to protect privacy and prevent misuse of the technology, according to the announcement by Ting’s office.

“Without my bill, face recognition technology can subject law-abiding citizens to perpetual police line-ups, as their every movement is tracked without consent,” Ting says. “Its use, if left unchecked, undermines public trust in government institutions and unduly intrudes on one’s constitutional right to privacy. AB 1215 is an important civil rights measure that will prevent exploitation of vulnerable communities.”

The announcement cites a March 2019 poll by the American Civil Liberties Union which shows 82 percent of likely California voters disagree with the government being able to track and monitor people with biometrics. It also refers to an ACLU test of AWS Rekognition which Amazon criticized for using an inappropriate confidence setting and misinterpreted results, and comments by Axon CEO Rick Smith in August, 2018, that the biometric technology is not ready for such a deployment yet.

“Body cameras should work for the people, not against the people,” Matt Cagle, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Attorney for the ACLU of Northern California comments the announcement. “Face-scanning body cameras would be a dangerous, radical expansion of surveillance powers at a time when our top priority should be creating new approaches to public safety that work for all of us.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote on a ban of facial recognition for law enforcement on May 14, and Oakland is considering similar rules for city surveillance systems.

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