With a flourish of a pen Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom blocked police in California from using facial recognition technology in their body cameras.
The Body Camera Accountability Act bans the use of facial recognition technology in body cams for three years. It prohibits “a law enforcement agency or law enforcement officer from installing, activating or using any biometric surveillance system in connection with an officer camera or data collected by an officer camera,” the bill said, noting that it “would authorize a person to bring an action for equitable or declaratory relief against a law enforcement agency or officer who violates that prohibition.”
California has crafted some of the strongest data and privacy protections in the country and has been particularly concerned about the use of facial recognition technology as a surveillance tool with San Francisco in May banning police and city agencies from using it.
The new bill calls the use of facial recognition technology “the functional equivalent of requiring every person to show a personal photo identification card at all times in violation of recognized constitutional rights” and which allows the tracking of people without their consent. “It would also generate massive databases about law-abiding Californians, and may chill the exercise of free speech in public places,” according to the bill, which reiterated concerns that the “technology has been repeatedly demonstrated to misidentify women, young people and people of color and to create an elevated risk of harmful ‘false positive’ identifications.”
Matt Cagle, technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, praised the state’s lawmakers for acting “boldly to stem the expansion of a surveillance state that presents an unprecedented threat to our rights and liberties.”
Cagle contended that “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.”