California Blocks Face Recognition on Police Body Cameras

October 8, 2019 11:00 pm

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SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom tonight signed into law The Body Camera Accountability Act, making California the largest state in the country to block police from using face recognition technology on officer-worn body cameras. The law imposes a state-wide, three-year ban on police body camera use of face recognition surveillance.

“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,” said Matt Cagle, Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “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.”

Throughout the country and across the world, concerns over use of face recognition software have mounted in recent years. San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville recently enacted bans on government use of face surveillance, and similar bans are currently under consideration in cities across the country. Many of these initiatives are part of the ACLU’s Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) effort, which is designed to ensure residents — through their local governments and elected officials — are empowered to decide if and how surveillance technologies are used, and to promote government transparency with respect to surveillance technologies.

The Body Camera Accountability Act (AB 1215) is supported by a wide coalition of organizations led by the ACLU of California. The organizations include Media Justice, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Color of Change, Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, Data for Black Lives, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, Media Alliance, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Center for Lesbian Rights, RAICES, Transgender Law Center, Library Freedom Project, Tor Project, and X-Lab.

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