Police body cameras were intended for officer accountability, not public surveillance. The use of facial recognition on body cameras would break this promise, transforming these devices into a vehicle for mass surveillance.
For three years, a state law prohibiting body camera face surveillance helped prevent the misidentification and wrongful imprisonment of Californians, safeguarded our freedom of speech, impeded creation of dangerous biometric databases, and protected our privacy. But that law expired in January and police departments are ready to pounce.
Face recognition supercharges discriminatory policing and increases police violence. The software has a terrible track record of misidentifying women, young people, and people of color, elevating the risk of harmful “false positive” matches. Pairing it with body cameras would make the problem even worse, as these cameras produce low-quality footage that is blurry, skewed, and in near-constant motion.
But even if the technology always correctly identified people, it would still be dangerous and a threat to our rights. Pervasive police facial recognition endangers immigrants and people of color who already are subject to over policing, racial profiling, and potentially fatal police encounters. It also could be used to record and expose the movements of people who come to California seeking abortions or gender-affirming care.
Authored by Assemblymember Wilson, AB 1034 would establish a 3-year moratorium on the use of face surveillance on police body cameras, protecting our privacy and civil rights. The only responsible standard for police use of face recognition is a total prohibition.
Principal bill author: Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Antioch)