Criminal Justice & Policing, Privacy & Technology, Racial and Economic Justice

Keep Facial Recognition Off Police Body Cameras (SB 1038)

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Biometric Surveillance (face recognition) on police body cameras enables pervasive monitoring of the public without their knowledge or consent, registering and reporting who we are and where we go. These tracking systems are inconsistent. Facial recognition has been repeatedly demonstrated to misidentify women, young people, and people of color, and proven to create an elevated risk of harmful “false positive” identifications.

Police body cameras were intended for officer accountability, not public surveillance. Keeping facial recognition technology off of police-worn cameras maintains their original purpose, protects constitutional rights and prevents potentially fatal misidentification.

Police body cameras are fundamentally incompatible with biometric surveillance. Officers are in near-constant motion and the images generated by such cameras are often wide-angle, low-quality, and blurred, raising the risk of false matches and wrongful arrests. According to research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Asian and Black people were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified by facial recognition than white men.

For nearly three years, California state law has prohibited the use facial recognition or other biometric surveillance in connection with police body cameras. In 2019, the Legislature passed AB 1215 (also sponsored by the ACLU) to prohibit law enforcement in California from adding facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology to officer-worn body cameras. This protection is temporary and set to expire on January 1, 2023. Authored by Senator Bradford, SB 1038 would make this prohibition permanent, protecting our privacy and ensuring the continuation of existing civil rights protections against the use of body cameras as roving face recognition devices.

Bill Author: Senator Steve Bradford

Learn more: Facial Recognition Technology Falsely Identifies 26 California Legislators with Mugshots