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The tide on face biometric bans is turning … and keeps turning

California bill would permanently bar facial recognition on police body cameras
The tide on face biometric bans is turning … and keeps turning

Absent federal regulation or industry action to protect individuals’ privacy, California is moving to harden the battle lines over facial recognition.

A bill has been introduced in the state senate that would make permanent a 2019 moratorium that has prevented law enforcement from installing much less using biometric surveillance systems with cameras worn by officers.

Senate Bill 1038 declares that officer cameras tied into facial recognition systems plugged into officers’ cameras (predominantly supplied by Axon) are vulnerable to attack and a “waste of critical public resources.” They also pose a threat to California’s constitutional right to privacy.

The 2019 law, which allows people to sue an agency or officer who violates it, expires next January.

It forced the mothballing of the Tactical Identification System, or TACIDS, beginning in 2020. The Automated Regional Justice Information System had used TACIDS to get face biometrics into the lands of local police departments.

California is not leading an unbroken parade of government bodies toward biometric surveillance bans. Most cities and counties have bigger priorities, first.

And second, the few moratoriums and bans passed by politicians over the last few years often find themselves under attack.

The New Orleans City Council is considering a measure that would slash at surveillance restrictions voted into law a little over a year ago, according to reporting by news publisher NOLA.com.

The city’s chief of police has pushed for a bill that would do that and more. The bill would permit law enforcement to use x-ray vans and wall-piercing radar as well as voice recognition tools.

Virginia lawmakers also want to reverse their state’s ban on facial recognition systems used by police. The year-old legislation would be replaced by one that would try to appease people who fear for their privacy rights.

For example, according to the Virginia Mercury, police would not be able to use face biometrics as probable cause to get a warrant. And any algorithm used would have to be evaluated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to be at least 98 percent accurate.

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