California Legislature Approves 3-Year Moratorium on Police Use of Face-Scanning Body Cams

“It’s worth noting that this latest state legislation is concerned specifically with the use of facial recognition technology through police-worn body cameras…”

Biometrics News: California Legislature Approves 3-Year Moratorium on Police Use of Face-Scanning Body Cams

California’s State Assembly has approved a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology through police body cameras.

The legislation originated earlier this year as an outright ban, and was passed in the State Assembly through a vote of 45 to 17. From there it proceeded to the Senate, where it was amended to let the ban expire after three years, allowing for the possibility of facial recognition technology evolving sufficiently to address some of the key concerns about its use by police, such as the issue of racial disparities in the accuracy of facial recognition systems.

In voting on the amended legislation, California’s State Assembly once again approved it overwhelmingly, through a vote of 42 to 18. It’s now up to Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the bill into law, or choose to veto it.

California’s moratorium is part of a larger backlash against the public use of facial recognition across the country, led primarily by privacy and civil rights advocates. Within the state, San Francisco has implemented a municipal ban, and Oakland has taken a similar step in that direction; meanwhile Bernie Sanders has made banning facial recognition an official policy plank as part of his campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee for the 2020 election.

Police groups, meanwhile, have insisted that facial recognition technology is a useful tool, often emphasizing its role in an intricate investigative process that is led by human agents.

It’s worth noting that this latest state legislation is concerned specifically with the use of facial recognition technology through police-worn body cameras; as Reuters reports, the bill suggests that such practices amount to “requiring every person to show a personal photo identification card at all times.”

The moratorium, if signed into law, will take effect on January 1st, 2020.

Sources: Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera

September 13, 2019 – by Alex Perala