California skeptic of facial recognition use by cops now sees an opportunity
The state of California‘s three-year moratorium on police use of facial biometrics surveillance using body cams (AB1215) quietly ended in January. A new bill liberalizing use of the systems has been floated by the same man who introduced the 2019 moratorium.
A deputy managing director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the proposed law will erode privacy rights.
This year’s Assembly Bill 642, introduced by lower-house Democrat Phil Ting, would amend the state’s penal code to allow police to tie body cams into face recognition algorithms to identify people related to a police investigation. There is no sunset clause.
Ting reportedly told The Vanguard, a Davis, California news publisher, that regulations can be crafted that protect privacy and aid law enforcement.
Starting July 1, 2024, police agencies could only use code that meets standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and achieve 98 percent or better true positive results.
Only specially trained and authorized personnel answering to a specifically appointed manager could use facial recognition and then, only as an “investigative aid.” Police would be forbidden from using a hit on an automated facial match database as the only reason for an arrest, search or warrant.
Agencies using facial recognition also would have to post online their policy for applying it as swell as an annual summary of its use. There would be an unlimited list of allowed uses and restrictions.
The legislation lists two situations when facial recognition would be prohibited, but no limits were noted in the draft.
For example, it could not be used solely because of a person’s protected traits, including religious beliefs, race, sexual orientation and gender. Nor, with some exceptions, could facial recognition be used because a person was enjoying a constitutional right. Those posing an “imminent and immediate threat to death or serious bodily injury” could be subjected to a scan.
A right to sue over violations is included in AB1034 but not in Ting’s AB642.
Speaking to CBS News, Nathan Sheard of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said even if only two percent of a population are wrongly accused by an algorithm it is too many people to justify enacting this law.
The next public hearing for the bill is March 28.
Efforts to extend AB1215 beyond its three-year term failed, and there is no end date in the new bill.
However, there is a challenger to AB642, and it has a 2034 expiration date. AB1034 appears to touch on most of the major points contained in AB642.