California Governor Signs Bill Banning Facial Recognition Tech Use By State's Law Enforcement Agencies

from the coastal-elite-cops-now-complaining-about-coastal-elites dept

California has become the first state in the US to ban facial recognition tech use by local cops. Matt Cagle has more details on the ACLU-backed law.

Building on San Francisco's first-of-its-kind ban on government face recognition, California this week enacted a landmark law that blocks police from using body cameras for spying on the public. The state-wide law keeps thousands of body cameras used by police officers from being transformed into roving surveillance devices that track our faces, voices, and even the unique way we walk. Importantly, the law ensures that body cameras, which were promised to communities as a tool for officer accountability, cannot be twisted into surveillance systems to be used against communities.

As Cagle points out, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban use of facial recognition by city agencies. Oakland followed closely behind. And all the way on the other side of the country, Somerville, Massachusetts became the second city in the US to enact a facial recognition ban.

This statewide ban will hopefully lead to others around the nation. The tech multiple companies are pushing government agencies to adopt is unproven, at best. The rate of false positives in live deployments is alarming. Just as alarming is the flipside: false negatives that allow the people, who law enforcement agents are actually looking for, to slip away. Despite this, everyone from the DHS to local police departments thinks this is the next wave of acceptable surveillance -- one that allows government agencies to, in essence, demand ID from everyone who passes by their cameras.

The resistance to facial recognition's seemingly-unchecked expansion is finally having some effect. Axon (formerly Taser) has temporarily halted its plans to introduce facial recognition tech into its body cameras and Google is stepping away from its development of this tech for government agencies. Unfortunately, Amazon has shown no desire to step away from the surveillance state precipice and is continuing to sell its own brand of facial recognition to law enforcement agencies as well as co-opting citizens' doorways into its surveillance network with its Ring doorbell/cameras.

It's a solid win for residents of the state. The ban blocks the use of facial recognition tech by state law enforcement until the end of 2022. It also blocks the use of other biometric surveillance tech and prevents law enforcement from using existing biometric data to feed any predictive policing tools agencies might be using or planning on implementing. With more states and cities willing to at least undertake serious discussions of the implications of facial recognition tech, it's unlikely California will remain the odd state out in the biometric surveillance race.

Filed Under: california, facial recognition, gavin newsom, law enforcement


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 2:08pm

    Hey, look over there!

    "California this week enacted a landmark law that blocks police from using body cameras for spying on the public."

    "The ban blocks the use of facial recognition tech by state law enforcement until the end of 2022."

    This law sounds fairly superficial to me, as it only stops body cams, not all the other cameras, and then only for about 3 years. What happens then?

    If the legislature was serious about doing something, then the ban should have been on facial recognition, and not limited to body cams, and there should not have been an end date. But they weren't serious, were they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2019 @ 3:52pm

      Re: Hey, look over there!

      it's strange which laws have sunset provisions, yeah? strange also how one can generally guess which laws will be continually re-authorized.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2019 @ 6:45am

        Re: Re: Hey, look over there!

        Yes, but at least they have to vote on it, right?
        There is one sunshine law I can remember that was allowed to expire, and it was a good thing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 4:58pm

      Re: Hey, look over there!

      I think that's a pretty defeatist way of looking at it.

      Lawmaking is about consensus. You pass the laws you have the votes to pass.

      This is a first step. That doesn't mean it's unserious. "Unserious" would be doing absolutely nothing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 5:36pm

        Re: Re: Hey, look over there!

        Probably more pessimistic than defeatist, but frankly our governments have not given us much in the way of hope with respect to liberty and freedom for the past couple of decades. Those were the marching orders given in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (aka the manual by which our governments should be run), weren't they?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sok Puppette, 18 Oct 2019 @ 4:49pm

    Good first step. Now ban all use of it by everybody. There's nothing magically different about state surveillance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 5:08pm

    Anon is on Netflix right now.

    1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a how-to manual!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dari (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 8:42pm

    If law enforcement is viewed as the organized criminal organization I believe they are, this new law is more dangerous than no new law at all.

    Like all laws passed to protect our civil rights from law enforcement, it includes no actual sanction for when (and it will be when) they simply ignore the law without consequence.

    When we pass these toothless "police restriction" laws it's nothing more than grand standing directed at our entirely unaccountable law enforcement agencies. Naive citizens who grew up on COPS, Adam 12 and NCIS incorrectly believe police actually follow the laws the way citizens do and that has never been the case.

    What do you think the odds are that cops will follow a law that prosecutors and judges don't even need to go through the regular qualified immunity free pass to violate the law process they usually fall back on when there are sanctions?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Robert Beckman, 20 Oct 2019 @ 8:00am

      Re:

      This is the problem I see.

      There’s nothing inherently wrong with facial recognition, nor even its use by cops.

      Imagine, for example, if cops were more likely to identify someone they see as having a warrant for their arrest for (insert horrific crime), and because their Google Cop Glass v7 superimposed the warrant information around the person the cop could see that good arrests then became more common.

      Further imagine that one cop sees another beating an innocent man, and the facial recognition ties that cop onto the video automatically, so no more cases of “sure he was beaten, but since he doesn’t know which of us beat him he can’t sue any of us.”

      Of course, that’s not likely how it would be implemented, but it illustrates that it’s the implementation that matters, not the technology itself. And part of that implementation is teeth for violating the rules of implementation - so when the cops invariably violate this law, they’ll pay no consequences.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2019 @ 8:25am

        Re: Re:

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with facial recognition, nor even its use by cops.

        At its current state, it is as goof at recognizing faces as cops are at knowing the law, and would becomes a justification for harassing people. The system identified him/her as a criminal would be another get out of jail free card.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    genghis_uk (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 6:39am

    Meanwhile, in the UK

    The government think facial recognition is a panacea for protecting children from porn...

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/18/gov_splashed_22m_on_failed_age_verification_policy/

    No thought about the consequences. Bloody idiots!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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